After winning only one game a season ago, Warren County’s varsity boys’ basketball team was scheduled to return to the state playoffs on Tuesday night for the first time since 2017.
The Eagles’ reward: a 460-mile round trip to Buxton to take on the Hurricanes of Cape Hatteras Secondary School in the Class 1A playoffs. The game was slated to tip off at 7 p.m., but results weren’t available at press time.
Warren County’s girls’ team did not receive a state playoffs bid, narrowly missing a postseason berth following a 7-12 season that ended Feb. 17 with a 41-39 loss to Granville Central in the opening round of the Northern Carolina Conference tournament.
T.J. McRae’s Eagles boys’ team (10-13) earned the No. 24 seed in the East half of the bracket and a first-round matchup against No. 9 Cape Hatteras (14-6), champion of the Atlantic Conference that also features Columbia, Mattamuskeet, Bear Grass Charter, and Ocracoke.
The plan was for Warren County to leave campus Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. for a journey likely to take about five hours on the activity bus including time for a rest stop about halfway.
“I’m actually looking forward to it, and the guys are as well,” McRae said following Monday’s practice. “I just don’t want to ride back with a loss. It’ll be an even longer ride.”
McRae hoped for an earlier start time, but the Cape Hatteras girls’ team had a playoff game of its own to play beforehand against River Mill Academy of Graham.
The winner of Warren County-Cape Hatteras will meet either No. 8 Princeton or No. 25 Falls Lake Academy on Thursday. The top overall seed, and in the Eagles’ half of the bracket, is North Edgecombe (23-2), and the third round is scheduled for Saturday.
Warren County’s last playoff appearance was a first-round loss against Hertford County. Only one player remains from that team: senior Andrew Smith. “We’re hungry for a win,” he said. “We don’t want it to be over yet.”
The Eagles’ stay in the Northern Carolina tourney ended last week in the semifinals with a 93-69 loss to Granville Central.
The third-seeded Eagles jumped out to a 7-2 lead, but the No. 2 Panthers ended the quarter on a 14-0 run and led 44-22 at halftime.
Granville Central went on to fall 100-74 at top-seeded South Granville in the championship game.
The unbeaten Vikings picked up the top overall seed in the 2A East, while Granville Central earned the fifth seed in the 1A East.
If Warren County can’t put together a playoff run, it won’t be because it’s not battle-tested.
“We’re built to go on a run,” McRae said. “It’s just whether we (play like we) want to do that or not. Are we diving on the floor? Are we being disciplined? Are we communicating on defense? Those little things can lead us to a championship run that we’re fully capable of making.”