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Cougars running into top 10

Kenny Kemp
Capital senior guard Carrington Morris ranks among the MSAC scoring leaders at 24.7 ppg.
With the Kanawha Valley perhaps poised for one of its best boys basketball seasons in a long time, making one of the biggest jumps in the state Class AAA poll this week was none other than Capital.The Cougars, off to a 3-0 start, vaulted into the No. 6 position in the first regular-season balloting after coming in 14th in voting for the preseason poll — and not even being part of the initial top 10.It's the first time Capital has started a season 3-0 since 2007-08, when it won its first eight starts.Senior guard Carrington Morris, an undeniable talent, leads the Cougars attack at 24.7 points per game, followed by Deandre Rogers (14.5) and the low-post tandem of Bryce Goldsmith (11.7) and Brad Grose (10.0).Capital has already beaten George Washington and Hurricane, teams with a combined 7-1 record outside of their games with the Cougars. Each of those opponents was ahead of the Cougars in the preseason state poll voting.Coach Carl Clark is cautiously optimistic as the season kicks into high gear this week with games against No. 3 South Charleston (4-0) and Winfield (5-2). He realizes his players have to stay together and complete the 22-game regular season the way they started it."That's always the case,'' Clark said. "You just don't know with these kids. But so far we haven't lost to anybody, and we have some kids who can play.''Skyler's the limitLogan coach Mark Hatcher is hoping and praying for another happy ending as his team goes another round with cancer.The last time, it was Hatcher himself who was diagnosed with a cancerous kidney. This time, it's sophomore guard Skyler Miller, who again finds himself battling leukemia.Miller, a football standout and reserve player on Hatcher's basketball squad, was diagnosed with leukemia last spring and fought it all summer, Hatcher said, undergoing chemotherapy treatments that were initially successful. However, the blood disorder has recently returned and Miller now faces another round of treatments. He played in his final high school game of the season on Saturday in a 69-27 home win against Nitro, starting the game and scoring six points before an appreciative crowd."He's just a great kid,'' Hatcher said of Miller, who openly deals with his situation, including entries on his Twitter account, skymiller1."He's really vocal in the community about fighting cancer. He's a Christian kid, so he's done a lot of prayer stuff. He's got his own organization [Logan County Hope], which raises money for kids in this area [battling cancer].''Hatcher, who lost 20 percent of one of his kidneys to cancer in May of 2012, marvels at how Miller deals with his diagnoses and the physical grind of chemo treatments.
"He was one of our strongest kids in weight-lifting,'' Hatcher said. "He was about 175 pounds when it hit him the first time, and he went down to about 115 in August — lost almost 60 pounds. Since August, he built himself back up to 142, 143.
"He battled it all summer. He fought back and got his body nice and strong again to get to play more. He's a fighter. He's not going to sit back and let it consume him. He's going to fight it with everything he's got.''Irish eyes not smilingCharleston Catholic is no stranger to success in Class A basketball.After all, the Irish have made it to the state tournament championship game eight times in the previous nine seasons, winning three titles.But they appeared extremely vulnerable Saturday in a 56-53 home loss to Linsly, a game in which Catholic held a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter.
Linsly, a Class A-sized private school from Wheeling, made just 4 of 19 shots in the first quarter and was on the ropes most of the night before a fourth-quarter charge won it. Catholic entered the game 103-5 at home since its Athletic Complex opened in the 2004-05 season.The Irish (4-1) return a pair of decorated players in senior all-staters Nick George (forward) and Garret McCarty (guard), but lost six seniors and return little in the way of other experience, which was evident on Saturday.McCarty (22 points) and George (17) had 39 of the team's 53 points as only six players saw extensive minutes.  "We're a quarter of the way through the season,'' said Irish coach Bill McClanahan, "but we've still got 15, 17 more regular-season games to play, so we've got steps we've got to take for those other guys. But it starts in practice, and it starts with attitude and effort. We're going to try to get back to some things.''Aside from McCarty and Miller, only six other players ever appeared in a varsity game last year and they combined for a season total of 55 points.Some snapshots of Saturday's game certainly didn't look like the Irish of old:n In the third quarter, against minimal backcourt pressure, Catholic inbounded the ball to no one in particular and the ball bounced aimlessly on the floor for a few seconds.n In a half-court offensive set, George growled at a teammate who was in the wrong position to provide a screen so he could drive, and frantically waved him aside.n Playing a zone defense, the Irish had no one within 6 feet of Linsly guard Colton Coss, who had already hit one 3-pointer and was somehow standing alone at the top of the key. Coss got the ball, looked things over for a couple of beats, took a shot and swished it.McClanahan said a change of intensity when the team returns to practice should help correct some of the flaws."And if it doesn't,'' he said, "I'll find five guys in that locker room that will make this program well-represented. Whether it's my five best or not will be entirely up to them." But it will be five young men who go out and bring pride to this program.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or
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