Nitro boys beat Point Pleasant, run win streak to seven

It’s been a while since Nitro played a meaningful game in late February or early March, but the Wildcats are trending in that direction.

They celebrated Senior Night Wednesday the same way they have for the past month — with a win, surging past decimated Point Pleasant 82-40 at Nitro High School.

It marked the seventh straight victory for the Wildcats (13-7), who haven’t lost since Jan. 17 and have racked up an average of 87 points over their last four games, locking up the program’s first winning season since 2007-08.

Austin Woodrum led the way Wednesday with 21 points and got a lot of support as Nitro shot 55 percent. Seth Brooks scored 17 and Deshawn Womack added 13 points, seven assists and six steals. The trio, all seniors, were honored before the game along with classmate Michael Martin.

“We’ve experienced some real bad Senior Nights with this class,’’ said Nitro coach Kevin Musilli, “and I’m happy they’re able to go out on a high note. I’m glad to be able to get a winning record in my second season here and not my eighth season.

“But it’s a tribute to what these guys have put in — spending the offseason getting in the weight room and lifting. Those seniors deserve everything they get right now. Real happy for those guys.’’

There wasn’t much competition on the court Wednesday, especially at the outset as Nitro vaulted into a 21-0 lead.

Injury-riddled Point Pleasant (10-10), which dropped its sixth in a row, committed eight turnovers in the first quarter and 18 in the first half. The Wildcats tallied 19 first-half points directly off turnovers by the Big Blacks as they held a 41-14 advantage at the break.

Point was missing three starters, including its leading scorer, senior guard Doug Workman (18.6 points per game), who suffered a torn ACL and meniscus last week. Also knocked out for the season a week ago was another senior, Austin Liptrap, with a broken wrist. Sophomore Cason Payne (flu) sat out his third straight game.

“It wasn’t the most ideal situation for the opponent,’’ Musilli said. “I feel bad for them over there.’’

The Big Blacks, who began the season 7-1, limp into the home stretch having lost nine of their last 12.

“It happens,’’ said Point coach Josh Williams of the recent spate of injuries. “You hate to see it for those guys, especially being seniors. They mean so much to the team, not just so much in scoring but in leadership. Someone to lean on and look to in adversity. We’ve just got to try to find guys to fill those shoes as these young guys are thrown into the fire.’’

Point, which beat Nitro 63-50 earlier in the season, started two freshmen Wednesday and brought two more off the bench.

Senior Will Harbour led the Big Blacks with 18 points and 11 rebounds and freshman guard Braxton Yates scored 11 points.

Nitro, meanwhile, turns its attention to making an impression on the rest of the teams in Class AA Region 4 as far as improving its seeding for the upcoming sectionals. The Wildcats close the regular season with games against Mingo Central and St. Albans.

Musilli thinks better things lie ahead for his team.

“There was a time,’’ he said, “when you take a lot of losses like we have the last couple years — and almost the last decade now — and you get a lot of individualistic goals. They’ve got individual goals instead of teams goals. So one thing we set forth last season and this season was that individual goals stop now. This is a family, and if you don’t want to be part of the family, we’ll find someone else who wants to do that.’’

Musilli said even a five-game losing streak at midseason didn’t dampen his players’ spirits or affect their effort.

“We had some lulls in there I didn’t expect,’’ he said, “and some setbacks early, but I think we really united through that losing streak and not through a winning streak — and that was huge. At the end of January, everybody was very upbeat and we had some of our best practices ever this year.

“When we went through the losing streak, you could feel things coming together. People were unselfish. We weren’t doing some of the little things in defense and rebounding, but as soon as that streak got through, [we took off]. We got a big win at Lincoln [County] coming from behind and honestly, we’ve been pretty much rolling since then.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

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