CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Savannah Shamblin usually doesn't say much before a game.So when the junior point guard approached Nitro coach Will Samuel for a few words after warm-ups Thursday night, it just marked another first for this bunch of hungry Wildcats.Shamblin promptly knocked down her first two shots - both 3-pointers - in racking up 28 points as Nitro stayed unbeaten with a 64-37 victory over host Capital. A crowd of about 100 attended the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup.Shamblin converted 11 of 23 shots, including 4 of 8 from long distance, and added nine assists and six rebounds for the Wildcats (8-0), who were eighth in this week's Associated Press poll and are ranked for the first time in several years."I have no clue,'' said Shamblin of why she felt so confident Thursday. "In warm-ups I was feeling good about my 3. They were falling.''"It's the first time she's ever done this,'' added Samuel. "She came over to me right after warm-ups and was like, 'Coach, I feel good today.' She nails a couple of 3s off the bat and she's coming down the court smiling. I don't know.''Shamblin's confidence is one of the hallmarks of this year's squad and permeates throughout the lineup. Nitro returned four starters from last year's 10-12 team that posted double-figure wins for the first time since 2008-09.That new-found swagger was on display when Capital battled back Thursday and closed within four points (20-16) in the second quarter and trailed by seven (31-24) at halftime.Freshman guard Alex Gray converted a driving layup to start the third quarter and the Cougars were only down by five points (36-31). Nitro, though, outscored the Cougars 19-4 in the period, including a 13-0 run after Gray's basket as three different players tallied for the Wildcats, in pulling away for a 44-26 advantage with 4:13 to go in the frame.
"Finally I was happy with a game,'' said Samuel, who couldn't help but smile himself. "We played the whole game defensively like we wanted to. The only thing we weren't shoring up was boxing out and rebounding and once we got that, we did a really good job. The second half, we played the best half we have all year.''Junior Hannah Linville added 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals for Nitro and junior Tiffany Reavis, who transferred from Capital after last season, pitched in seven points and eight boards. Wildcats senior Bethany Hill donated six points and five caroms and senior Halie Miller totaled six points, three rebounds and two steals.The Wildcats began the game hot and stayed that way, converting 52.8 percent of their shots from the floor."We just keep playing harder and harder each game,'' Shamblin said. "Now that we're undefeated, we just want to keep going. It's awesome to be undefeated.''Gray netted 22 points, knocking down four 3s for Capital (3-7), and was the team's only player to score in double figures. The Cougars hit just 26.5 percent from the field."Got off to a terrible start,'' said Capital coach B.J. Calabrese, who after advancing to the state tournament last year had to replace seven of his top nine players. "I've never called a timeout in the first 30 seconds.
"You knock [the deficit] down to seven at the half and we're talking about the mistakes we were making and how to correct them and after we get the first basket of the third quarter, the wheels fall off. You just have to consistently execute. We'll execute one or two possessions, then the next couple of possessions we don't.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.