Nitro's Savannah Shamblin drives on Poca's Casey Skeens.
POCA, W.Va. - Nitro's Savannah Shamblin was looking past Tuesday night's bumbles and stumbles and into a future bright with possibilities.The 5-foot-4 junior point guard scored a game-high 19 points as the visiting Class AAA Wildcats did enough to hold off Class AA Poca 38-28 in both team's season opener. A crowd of about 400 attended the matchup of rivals that are separated by less than 10 miles across Kanawha and Putnam county lines.Nitro scored the first eight points, but then sputtered in leading 17-10 at halftime. The Wildcats used a full-court press to rattle the Dots, who netted just three points in the third quarter while running out to a seemingly comfortable 16-point lead.Then Poca went on an 11-3 run keyed by freshman guard Kasey Skeens' back-to-back 3-pointers, trimming Nitro's advantage to eight (36-28) with 1:57 left in the game. Shamblin restored order with a runner through the lane to set the final score with 1:21 to go.Shamblin, who scored seven points in the opening half then added 12 in the second, connected on 9 of 22 shots from the floor, including a 1-of-6 effort on 3s. She also contributed five rebounds and four steals, including three in the fourth period, and one block."Very excited once we work everything out,'' said Shamblin. "Our defense has improved a lot. Once we get the offense going it'll be exciting."I thought we rebounded really good. Our offense was not the best. Our press worked well and that's what pretty much got us the win. We turned the ball over too much, but we can fix that.''Nitro junior Tiffany Reavis, a transfer from Capital, added four points, 11 points and one block and senior Halie Miller turned in six points and seven boards.
The Wildcats shot just 34.7 percent and missed eight free-throw attempts. Nitro held a 37-18 edge in rebounds but committed 18 turnovers, including seven in the final quarter.Nitro returns four starters from a squad that posted double-figure wins for the first time since 2008-09, finishing with a 10-12 record last season."Season openers always show you what you have to work on and I've got a lot of stuff to work on,'' said Nitro coach Will Samuel. "I liked a lot of things."I'm excited about the experience we have. Five out of six are back and they know the system now. If we shore some things up I think we can keep getting better, and come tournament time we could be a tough out.''Skeens paced Poca with 13 points, but those came on 5-of-19 accuracy, and no one else hit double figures for the Dots. In addition to Skeens, the Dots have two other freshmen who are the top substitutes."If you would have told me before the game that we would hold [Nitro] to 38 points, I'd take it,'' said Poca coach Kenny Sayre, whose team hit on just 25 percent of its shots. "I was proud of the effort."Our girls could have easily folded. [The freshmen] got introduced to high school basketball tonight. I'm going to have to count on them. Defensively, we'll be all right, just get some shots to fall.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.