Annette Olenchick made a successful return to the court Friday night, guiding Nitro to a season-opening 64-37 win at Lincoln County."It felt real good to be back on the bench,'' said the former Sissonville girls basketball coach. "I missed it.'' Olenchick stepped down from her head coaching position at Sissonville after the 2008-09 season. At the time she was juggling teaching and the head coaching duties of the softball program at the University of Charleston. She owns a 322-183 record as a prep basketball coach and won a Class AA state championship at Sissonville in 2001.Olenchick resigned her position at UC in May and for the first time in 23 years didn't have a team to prepare. Nitro athletic director Steve Pritchard gave Olenchick a call in late October about taking over the Wildcats, who have won eight games combined the past two seasons.
"I felt comfortable with the administration and their support for their coaches and I said why not,'' said Olenchick. "I couldn't see myself not coaching. I'm one of those types of people who enjoy the challenge.''Olenchick brought in former DuPont and Riverside boys basketball coach Jim Fout as her assistant. Fout's most recent job was the women's head basketball coach at West Virginia University Tech."It was exciting,'' said Olenchick of the season opener. "I know Coach Fout and I both had that excitement. We're having a good time. We have a great group of girls."They have been great as far as accepting what Coach Fout and I have thrown at them. They don't complain and they really appreciated everything we've done. I think it was a good start Friday. I think that helped them even believe in it more.''Nitro showed some promise with Savannah Shamblin, a 6-foot freshman, scoring 15 points and junior Kelli Douglas adding 17."I think we definitely can stay there and build a program,'' Olenchick said. "It's great to have players appreciate what you do.''
Capital improvementCapital opened with an impressive 59-54 win last week over Huntington, which was seventh in the Class AAA Associated Press preseason poll."The kids were real resilient and played really hard the entire game,'' said Cougars coach B.J. Calabrese. "The kids are playing with some confidence and feeling real good about themselves right now. After GW [on Monday] we've got some teams there that we've played real competitive with the last few years.''Capital has won just nine games the past two seasons.
"We've had a good summer,'' Calabrese said. "We went to a couple of shoot-outs, we played in a fall league and got in a total of 20 games over the summer."We had the majority of our kids out during our three weeks of practice [in June]. They've bonded real well and their work ethic has been real good. We like where we're at right now.''The Cougars have a solid base with juniors Khadijah Lee, Katie Crowder, Tanija Spencer and Key Key Dudley returning as starters. Spencer netted 15 points against Huntington, Crowder added 15 and freshman India Hairston 10."We felt at different times last year we would reach a point in games where we would make physical and mental mistakes, and that single-digit game would go into double digits and they would just falter,'' said Calabrese."We had the same opportunity to do that against Huntington. We fell behind by eight early in the game. They came back and took a one-point lead in the fourth quarter and we were able to overcome that. That's just something we need to continue to build off.''Skyhawks take flight
Scott was also off and soaring, capturing the 17th annual Donnie Fenton Shootout at Williamstown last weekend.Skyhawks senior guard Makenzie White sank two free throws with three seconds left for a 52-50 win over Wheeling Central, which was fourth in the Class A preseason poll. Scott (3-0), which has played in the last two Class AA state title games, was second in the preseason rankings.Scott coach John Porter said the tournament was a great way to get some of the younger players experience. The Skyhawks are starting three sophomores, with Andrea Rankin, a 6-foot freshman, the top substitute off the bench."We've still got those young kids,'' said Porter. "Even the sophomores are scared right now, but in a couple of weeks we'll be OK. Wheeling Central was big. They're a very, very good team."The sophomores that were a little scared going in should have picked up some confidence from that. I think we're going to be OK by the end of the year, if not sooner.''White, who has signed with West Virginia University, is averaging 23.7 points, and 6-0 sophomore Ali Whitman has added 13.0."We've been using the two of them [Rankin and Whitman] and that's a whole lot for Makenzie to work with,'' Porter said. "It's a nice little bunch. They did a nice job with Wheeling Central, who had about three or four seniors starting.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org