Sophomore Brad Grose (40), playing defense against Riverside's Tyus Wood, is one of several young players seeing extended playing time for Capital.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's been a strange season so far for veteran Capital coach Carl Clark and his staff.The Cougars lost their top five scorers from a year ago - all seniors - and have had seven players drop off the roster from the beginning of this season for various reasons.Understandably, the Cougars have also lost some games, carrying a 5-6 record into tonight's date at Huntington, but they've remained more than competitive.In fact, Capital's last three games have gone into overtime - a 69-62 loss to Class AAA power South Charleston and victories against a pair of winning-record teams, Winfield and Nitro.
The youthful Cougars have also beaten state-ranked George Washington and lost by a point to 8-2 Hurricane. In all, they've played six games decided either in OT or by three points or fewer."We're hoping we can keep them together,'' Clark said, "and keep improving and learning. We've had a lot of experience in the last few years, and we've been playing seniors, but the seniors this year don't have a lot of experience - they've only played [junior varsity]."This is an unusual year. We are starting younger kids. Hopefully they will be back next year and have some experience. I think these kids are learning and they're staying in games - three overtime games in a row and four overall. They're beginning to learn how to win.''Clark hopes he can say as much when semester grades come out next week, a time that typically renders some of his players academically ineligible.Carrington Morris, who leads the Cougars in scoring at 16.2 points per game and is the team's only double-figure scorer, played only the first nine games last season before being ruled ineligible."Academics is another situation,'' Clark said, "when the grades come out. Last year, we lost two starters and a sixth man to grades."It's just a battle to keep kids on the floor. When you stop moving in the right direction, you may lose one way or the other. All we can do is keep working, trying to improve and have the kids keep learning. Hopefully we'll bring our best foot forward.''Clark, in his 19th season at Capital, has moved into the top 10 in all-time Kanawha Valley coaching wins with 280.New game at LoganWhen you think of Logan basketball, you generally think of the Wildcats' traditional high-flying, high-scoring teams. But that's changed a bit this season.Logan has been grinding more often than not and has scored more than 60 points in a game just once. Entering Friday's game against Westside, in fact, the Wildcats didn't have a single player sporting a double-figure scoring average - Worm Street's 9.9 mark led the team.
That's certainly a long way from recent teams led by prolific scorers and all-staters such as Noah Cottrill, Paul Herbert Williamson and Stevie Browning. Those three players - standout guards on Logan's last three teams - led attacks that averaged 80.5, 64.2 and 64.7 points, respectively.This year's Wildcats squad was averaging only 54 points entering Friday's game, but that doesn't dampen the enthusiasm of Logan coach Mark Hatcher."We're right there,'' he said recently. "We've been in a lot of close games. We've got to keep believing in these guys.''Hatcher noted that the reconfiguration of the Class AAA sections and regions makes for a different path for his program to get to the state tournament."With South Charleston out of our region,'' he said, "it makes our region a little different now. But we've got some really good teams in the other section of our region now - Hurricane's better, Winfield's better, St. Albans and Nitro are better."Huntington High is the big dog in our section now. It's who's going to find ways to win some games in our section now to get up there and compete with Huntington [for a high seed]. It's a long season.''
Puzzling IrishHere we are approaching the middle of the regular season, and defending Class A state champion Charleston Catholic is still trying to sort out its rotation of players.Keifer Hovorka, who was coming off the bench at the start of the season, is now in the starting lineup. Junior Russell Miller has been getting some solid minutes lately. Other players are being shuttled around."We're playing a lot of different guys to try to find the pieces,'' said Irish coach Bill McClanahan, "to try to find the glue that makes the pieces fit. We're trying different combinations to see what pieces fit together the cleanest - and we're kind of searching."Nick [George] has been steady, Garret [McCarty] has shown flashes of being the point guard I'm looking for . . . We're starting to get there, but we've still got some things to fix. The problem is that sometimes those pieces are only snapping together for two-, three-minute spurts, and sometimes it's just in the first quarter and sometimes just in the fourth. We need to snap them together, leave them together and put the polish on it, and we're not doing it yet.''Fast breaksSt. Albans (4-4) parlayed a three-game win streak to get back to .500 last week despite the absence of freshman Thaddeus Moss (son of Randy Moss), who's missed six games with an ankle injury. "We've had the flu and some guys got sick and Moss has been out,'' said coach Marshall Kiser, "but it was good for us to get some wins and get our guys a chance to play some ball.''How jumbled can AAA basketball be? Consider Parkersburg (3-6), which has endured a six-game losing streak this season but has impressive wins against Wheeling Park and Woodrow Wilson - both on the road.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.