Poca coach Allen Osborne (center) talks to his players during a break in Friday night's game.
POCA - No matter how well Clay County shot, it wasn't going to be able to hang with Poca Friday night. Not with all its lapses in ball-handling and lapses in defense.Jake Payne hit 7 of 8 shots and scored 19 points to lead four starters in double figures as the Dots stormed off with a 78-51 victory.Also for Poca (2-0), Cameron Cottrill tallied 16 points, Noah Frampton 15 and Matt Chandler 12. All four had reached double figures by the 3:44 mark of the third quarter."I was pleased with the way we played the second quarter,'' said Dots coach Allen Osborne, "especially offensively. We attacked the rim. Our defense was pretty good for the most part, too. It was a good effort.''The Dots never led by fewer than 13 points over the last 21/2 quarters against a Panthers team that went 12-11 last season, including two close losses to Poca."I think they're going to win a bunch of games,'' Osborne said of the Panthers. "They're big and physical and they've got a couple kids who can shoot it.''Shooting the ball was never a problem for Clay, but other things sure were.Through three quarters, the Panthers (1-1) hit 54 percent of their attempts, but trailed 56-34 largely because of 19 turnovers and their failure to close out defensively on some of Poca's sets."Sometimes we played defense for 30, 35 seconds,'' said Clay coach Scott Gibson, "then we'd just lose a guy and they get an easy shot. Their kids would play defense for 30, 40 seconds and they don't lose a guy. They just do a tremendous job defensively.
"When you play Coach Osborne, that's the way his kids play. I knew it coming in. He does a tremendous job of getting his kids to come out and play hard defense. Sometimes I don't know how he does it. We'll watch film and try to emulate them because they do a fantastic job. We've got to get better at that, and hopefully we will.''Clay ended with 26 turnovers, which included 13 steals by the Dots - four by Cottrill and three apiece for Chandler and Cameron Morrison, several starting fast-break baskets.Poca's offensive approach is a bit different than previous seasons, when it relied on go-to scorers such as Jason Cuffee and Clinton Parsons."We've got four, five kids who can score,'' Osborne said, "and some guys who can come off the bench and play and give us some depth. We're more balanced, I guess, and I kind of like that because it makes you hard to guard.''For the Panthers, who played without senior starter Michael Shamblin, Stephen Cole scored 15 points and Chris Cole 10. Jarrod Woodyard grabbed seven rebounds to lead Clay to a 29-22 edge off the boards. Poca had no one with more than four rebounds.Osborne said his team's next two games will tell quite a bit - home dates Tuesday against Tolsia and Friday versus Charleston Catholic.
"We'll find out a lot about how dangerous we are,'' Osborne said, "a final four double-A team and the defending state champ [in Class A]. It'll be a good challenge for us.''Prior to tipoff, Poca administrators held a ceremony honoring two West Virginia State Police troopers and former athletes from the two communities who were shot and killed following an Aug. 28 incident with a reckless driving suspect at the Wallback park and ride.Cpl. Marshall Lee Bailey, 42, played at Poca and Trooper Eric Workman, 26, played for Clay County.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.