Nitro's Savannah Shamblin (left) and Halie Miller (right) double-team Poca's Harley Hutchins.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nitro's Savannah Shamblin wasn't going to lose Thursday night.The 5-foot-5 point guard scored a game-high 28 points, including her team's first six of the fourth quarter to give the host Wildcats the lead for good in a 47-38 victory over rival Poca. A crowd of about 400 attended the girls high school basketball season opener for both schools, which are only about 5 miles apart."She didn't want to lose,'' said Nitro first-year coach Will Samuel. "She's like that in practice in our scrimmages. We say the losing team runs a suicide and she just refuses to lose. She came out tonight impressive.''Poca sophomore McKenzie Ball drilled a 3-pointer to knot the game for the last time at 30-all with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter. Shamblin put Nitro in front with a 3 then came right back with a floater in the lane for a 35-30 advantage with 6:06 remaining in the game.After senior Madi McGrew's jumper pulled the Dots within three points (35-32) with 5:52 left in the fourth, Shamblin sank a pair of free throws for a 37-32 edge at the 5:41 mark. Poca cut its deficit to three points two more times, but each time Nitro answered, the last time with a 6-0 run that Shamblin finished off with a baseline jump shot for a 45-36 lead with 2:35 remaining."We made our shots at the very end,'' said Shamblin, who sank 11 of 28 from the floor and added two assists, three rebounds and three steals. "Very important shots by Kelli Douglas and Hannah Linville and others. It felt good. I want to lead the team in every way that I can with a positive attitude.''Douglas, a senior, finished with 10 points while senior Melissa Belcher grabbed nine rebounds for Nitro."It was sloppy, but we got the job done,'' Samuel said. "I saw a lot of things I liked and I saw a lot of things we didn't like. We've just got to work and keeping trying to get better."We've got the right type of players. If we want to go big, we can go big. If we want to press and get after it some, we've got some tall wing players that like to run the court.''
Poca led 8-7 after the opening quarter and only trailed 22-20 at halftime. The Wildcats went into the fourth quarter only up by three points (30-27) before pulling away. "We started out the game in the wrong style with a little slow press back into a 2-3 zone,'' said Samuel. "[Poca] got up on us and we just decided to go after it full-court, man-to-man press and trap at half court. I think that's what turned it around for us.''Thursday's game was the first for Poca since it disbanded its team after three games last season because injuries left too few players available. The Dots lost at home to Nitro 52-37 in their final game before the season was canceled."It was a great feeling to get back on the court,'' said Poca senior Paula Ord, who finished with eight points and seven boards. "I really wasn't sure how it would play out and if we would have a coach this year."The loss is hard, but it just makes us stronger. Everybody's strong and playing to their strengths. We've just got to work and get up to the next level.''McGrew turned in 13 points and 14 boards while Bailey tallied 13 points for Poca, which committed 32 turnovers.
"Pressure,'' explained Dots first-year coach Kenny Sayre, whose team cut its turnovers to only five in the third quarter but then saw them balloon to 10 in the fourth. "That's all it was, pressure. We take care of turnovers and we're in the game. That's what killed us."Our girls played hard. I was very proud of them. We just took a big step. I had several people call me and the girls and say good luck. I had a bunch of text messages. I think we're getting the Poca family behind us and hopefully we'll turn this thing around.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.