Despite standing just 6-foot-1, Buffalo's Dylan Rich (shown defending Fayetteville's Zach Semple) gets the job done under the basket.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Buffalo, riding a 13-1 record and a high state ranking, has almost everything you need to make a run at a Class A basketball championship.
The Bison has plenty of solid shooters, several proficient from 3-point range, good team speed, enough depth to play a lot of trapping full-court defense and decent ball-handling to ignite the fast break.
One thing Buffalo lacks, however, is height. And that could be a tall order once the Bison starts knocking heads with other Class A contenders.
The tallest player on the Bisons' roster is 6-foot-1 - forwards Dylan Rich, Bradley Harris, Aaron Lewis and Gabe Garrison, among the regulars, all measure up at that height.
"We play a perimeter game,'' said Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins, "but Harris and Rich do a good job rebounding inside for us. They jump a whole lot better than they look.''
The team's top scorer, 6-foot senior Levi Jordan, realizes that his team comes up short on the tape measure, but not in effort.
"I'd say our biggest flaw is our height,'' Jordan said. "Our post guys work to death down there, though.''
Buffalo hopes it can shoot its way out of any predicaments that arise, especially with players like Laythen Good and Jordan, who combined to go 7 of 15 from 3-point range in Tuesday's win against Fayetteville.
Jordan leads the Bison in scoring at 16.9 points per game, while Good carries a 15.6 average.
Elkins expects future opponents to clamp down on the outside shooting of Jordan and Good and force the smaller Bison to beat them inside.
"I know what they're going to try to take away,'' Elkins said. "They're going to try and take away the perimeter shooting - Levi and Laythen on the perimeter. That's pretty obvious. Then again, I think with [Harris and Rich], and [Lewis] is starting to play a little better, we're going to score inside.
"I think we've got threats at every spot. They're not going to completely shut down all four of them. The only spot not getting a lot of points right now is from the point guard - Isaiah [Robinson] and Jordan [Fletcher], but that could happen at any time, and Isaiah's doing a great job of getting everybody involved.''
The key could be Jordan, a four-year regular who has been the team's go-to scorer for three seasons. He stands 23 points short of 1,000 for his career.
"He just does so many things,'' Elkins said. "He rebounds and steals the ball and handles the ball and scores. I kind of feel bad because he hasn't been scoring a whole lot, but you look at the [score] book and he's got 16 or 18 every night. And it's nothing spectacular. He just hits his shots when he's open.''
Down in Morgantown
From No. 2 to who knows? That's the plight of Morgantown, which went from one of the favorites in Class AAA to a total unknown following a pair of injuries.
First, state player of the year candidate and West Virginia University recruit Nathan Adrian suffered a broken foot and is sidelined for 6-to-8 weeks. A couple days later, 6-foot-4 Austin Agnew fell victim to a knee injury and, following surgery on Friday, is out for the rest of the season. Both are seniors.
"Those are about our only two big guys,'' said Mohigans coach Tom Yester. "We're pretty decent with them, but we'll limp along without them. It's not going to be quite the same. Both were playing well.''
The Mohigans (13-2) have been ranked as high as No. 2 in the state poll.
The 6-8 Adrian, who's averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds, might return if Morgantown is able to qualify for the state tournament March 13-16 at the Charleston Civic Center, and if his injury heals sufficiently.
"He's swimming already,'' Yester said recently, "but it would be very difficult [for him to return].
"First, we have to make it without him and now we don't have Austin. It'll be hard to rebound without those two. It makes a lot of difference. Austin's 6-4, but he played 6-6. Plus, we're not going to do anything that might jeopardize [Adrian] in the long term. And even if he can return, he's not going to be in condition.''
Misery loves company
South Charleston, the state's No. 1 AAA team, finds itself - temporarily - in the same position as Morgantown, minus two inside players.
Senior Hunter Moles, a starter, missed Wednesday's game at Cabell Midland with a broken bone in his face. He is being fitted for a protective mask to wear during upcoming games. Meanwhile, junior Kevin Williams, a key reserve, is sitting out an indefinite suspension.
In their absence against Midland, the Black Eagles gave more playing time to freshmen Brandon Knapper and Kentre Grier and junior Tre Clark.
"When Hunter comes back, he'll have to get his wind back,'' said SC coach Vic Herbert, "so we may only use him for three-, 31/2-minute stretches. But he'll get to play when he's ready.
"For our other guys, all I can say is you'd better get back here. We've got depth. We've got guys who can play. Get back or you'll be the 10th or 11th guy.''
Capital update: The oh-so-close Cougars (7-10 overall) are now 5-5 in games decided by four points or less or in overtime. They've played five OT games this season.
Cardinal sin: Wayne is 0-8 in games in the competitive Cardinal Conference, which has three ranked AA teams, but the Pioneers are 4-2 in nonconference games.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.