Generals electric, at least so far
Pat McGinnis knows his Winfield team has been flying under the radar so far this season, but when you start out 9-0, the spotlight will eventually find you.
And so it goes for the Generals, who broke into the Class AAA rankings this week as the state's No. 9 team.
"I kind of like flying under the radar a little bit,'' McGinnis said. "You could say we're beating the teams we're supposed to beat and I know we haven't played the upper-echelon teams yet, but we've played all triple-A teams.''
None of the nine teams Winfield has beaten currently sports a winning record and only three of those games have been decided by fewer than 16 points - margins of nine over Parkersburg South (70-61) and Spring Valley (61-52) and eight against Putnam County rival Hurricane (70-62).
That will change in the coming days, as the Generals are scheduled to visit Logan (5-2) Friday, then play at Oak Hill (4-1) on Jan. 14. Further down the schedule are games against Capital and No. 10 Robert C. Byrd.
"Friday night will be our first true test,'' McGinnis said of the trip to Willie Akers Arena in Logan. "It will give us a better gauge to the rest of the season going in there.''
Winfield has relied on a rare combination of both veteran presence and youth.
Two seniors, low post Zach Gunter and point guard Cameron Powell, have played leading roles, with 6-foot-7 Conner Chapman coming off the bench to provide help on the boards.
Sprinkled in there are contributions from a few juniors - 6-3, 260-pound Garrett Grafton, football standout David Gaydosz and 6-5 Brock Pence - along with an astounding 10 sophomores, many of whom also play regularly.
"I think we have a good mix,'' McGinnis said. "We have four guys in double figures [in scoring], and with the 10 sophomores on the team, we can play most any of them at any time. Our schedule has boded well for that early on since we've been beating some teams pretty good. Some of those sophomores are getting a lot of experience.
"It's been a really good combination, a good mixture with good chemistry among our kids. We've played good, solid defense and run our break real well, and spread the scoring around. We're getting points from our people off the bench - even if it's just four or so, we're always getting little contributions there.''
The 6-2 Gunter leads the team in scoring at 17.9 points per game, followed by 5-11 sophomore Josh Fisher (13.8), the 5-8 Powell (13.1) and 6-3 soph Chris Turner (10.3).
"Gunter has been real steady at center,'' McGinnis said. "He's actually pretty small at 6-2, but he boxes out well and runs the floor well. Powell had 13 assists [Tuesday] at Cabell Midland and Gaydosz helps us defensively with his athleticism.''
McGinnis understands that the schedule gets tougher from here on out, and that his youthful team might be ripe for the occasional letdown.
"Sure,'' he said. "The other night against Hurricane, we scored 27 points in the first quarter to go up 27-12, but we turn around and get 10 points the next quarter and they made it a close ballgame. With our younger kids, we're going to see a little bit of that.
"But I'm also seeing some consistency, and I'm real pleased we're finding a way to win games. We're off to a good start, and we want to keep it going.''
Irish eyes weren't smiling
Charleston Catholic's early season optimism was tempered a bit by a Dec. 20 home game against Poca, in which the Irish blew a five-point halftime lead and fell 54-51 in overtime.
The Irish (5-1) seemed to have rediscovered their motivation, evidenced by a 60-32 conquest at Buffalo Tuesday night.
"We just didn't have any energy against Poca,'' said senior Keaghan Ritchie, "but tonight we came out like we should. We started off great, and finished it.''
Catholic coach Bill McClanahan thinks he was able to impress upon his team that the season was moving toward the most important time of the year - the postseason. That's been prime time for a program that's played in six of the last seven Class A state championship games.
"We're starting to understand that March is not that far away,'' McClanahan said. "The season's starting to wind down and we just had that conversation earlier this week - March is only about six, seven weeks away and so we can't just wait to flip the switch. There's not a switch to turn on and off.
"We've got to do every little thing every day to get ready for March, and it appears that [against Buffalo], our players bought into it - and from a coach's perspective, that's very satisfying.''
On the other side of the floor, Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins was willing to just forget about a game in which his team posted its lowest point total of the season.
The Bison (5-3), who shot just 21 percent against Catholic, had been averaging 63-plus points, but managed about half that on Tuesday.
"I look at it not so much as [worrying about] a carryover, or a hangover,'' Elkins said. "We played last Thursday and Friday and I gave them the weekend off, and [Jan. 2] was a holiday and we don't get much out of them on Mondays. We ran into a really good team. We just mark it down as one bad game and move on. We want to try and not turn it into two or three [bad games].''
Let it snow
Kanawha County Schools' decision to relax its no-classes, no-games rule sure looked a lot like the old policy Tuesday night as the first real blast of wintry weather hit the area.
All five county public school boys teams set to play Tuesday had their games called off, including South Charleston and Sissonville, who had home games scheduled. Other trips scrubbed included Nitro at Ripley, St. Albans at Lincoln County and Herbert Hoover at Tolsia.
In past years, any time county classes were called off by inclement weather, all games were automatically postponed, but officials decided to rescind that blanket policy and allow exceptions if traveling conditions improved later in the day. Some coaches believe those exceptions will be permitted later in the season when teams have fewer days to make up games.
Some school systems decided travel wasn't so dicey on Tuesday. Parkersburg Catholic made it all the way to Weirton for a game with Madonna, Ravenswood ventured to Tyler Consolidated and Sherman hiked to Roane County.
In the immediate region, Charleston Catholic played at Buffalo, Poca made it to Scott and Chapmanville ventured to Man. Other games played included Mingo Central at Logan, Winfield at Cabell Midland and Huntington at Hurricane.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175