Boys basketball notebook: Hurricane’s slowdown could pay off in postseason

JUSTIN ROGERS | Gazette-Mail
Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland knows opponents don't like to face his team's slower pace.

No team is quicker to slow the pace of a game than Hurricane. And for good reason.

“We’re doing it because we’re not very good outside shooters,’’ said Redskins coach Lance Sutherland. “We have to get to the basket to score.’’

That means Hurricane tries to pull teams out of their packed-in zone defenses in order to get clear lanes to the basket. Sometimes it takes a while to find that path, forcing guards Braxton Dobert and Evan Dearing to dribble around the perimeter.

“We’re not doing it to stall,’’ Sutherland said. “Of the nine games we’ve won, I think in six or seven of them we’ve not made a shot outside of 3 foot. Most of the time, it’s inside the paint. It’s been that way this year, and that’s what we’ve got.’’

That means low-scoring games like Tuesday, when the Skins fell to Poca 35-30, a game in which the Dots made just eight field goals.

Of course, that ploy could work in the Redskins’ favor as they seek a fifth straight trip to the Class AAA state tournament next month. They’ve already held nine teams under 50 points this season, and virtually no one wants to play at that pedestrian pace for an entire game in the postseason.

“That’s what we’ve noticed,’’ Sutherland said of Skins’ opponents. “You can hear kids [talk] — ‘Is that what you’re going to do? Oh, really?’ — and they do. They start [to worry]. They don’t like playing against us. The opposing fans hate seeing it. We do it to stay in the game.

“We play pretty good defense most of the time, especially when you play a team like Poca with [Luke] Frampton. You’ve got to limit their possessions, which we did.’’

Frampton, averaging 24.9 points coming into the game, took just four shots against Hurricane. He scored 14 points largely due to a 7 of 7 effort at the free-throw line.

Region of doom

Whichever teams emerge from Class AA’s Region 4 will certainly earn their stripes, along with a trip to the state tournament.

That’s because a glut of good teams are all bunched together in that region following the SSAC’s last reclassification procedure, which supersized the sectionals in AA and single-A while paring down the number of schools in AAA.

Half the current Class AA top 10 hails from Region 4 — Mingo Central (15-4, third), Chapmanville (17-4, fourth), Poca (14-5, fifth), Sissonville (12-7, ninth) and Winfield (12-7, 10th). In addition, two other teams that have been state-ranked at one time or another this season, Nitro (13-7) and Logan (12-7), are also receiving votes in the poll.

Two other Region 4 teams are Lincoln County (13-6) and Point Pleasant (10-10). Only three of the 12 teams in Region 4 have losing records. But just two of them can be Charleston Civic Center-bound.

“The sectionals are going to be interesting,’’ said Nitro coach Kevin Musilli, whose team is in Section 1 with Poca, Winfield and Sissonville. “I think our section and our region’s going to have some better games than the state tournament’s going to have because it’s going to eliminate a lot of teams that are ranked in the top 10, 11, 12.

“You’re going to go through fire before you ever get to the states, so whoever comes out of our region — the two teams that do — I think have a heck of chance to win the state championship. I’m looking forward to it.’’

Musilli thinks his team, which has won six straight, could be seeded anywhere from second to fourth out of the six Section 1 schools. The top two seeds get a bye to the semifinals and receive a home game.

“It all comes down to a vote,’’ Musilli said. “I wish it was not as political as what it could be. I wish it was just take wins and losses and see where your conference is. I wish we could figure it out. I think we’re the hottest team right now in our section.

“But that’s life. I sort of like not being in the top 10. Our kids, my guys, they keep their edge and they still have something to work for. There’s one more poll next week, but I don’t care where we place. I’d like to have a home game, love to have two, but the ultimate goal is to make it to the sectional final so you have a chance to go play in a regional.’’

Both teams in the sectional championship game advance to the regionals, but the loser has to go on the road, while the winner gets to play at home. Regional winners advance to the state tournament.

Ravenswood back in LKC finals

Ravenswood takes its anniversaries seriously when it comes to the Little Kanawha Conference Night of Champions.

The Red Devils, who won the title during the first LKC Night of Champions in 1987 (beating Williamstown in overtime), have been back for the league’s milestone games throughout the years — winning the 10th anniversary game in 1997 against Roane County and losing in the 2007 game to Braxton County, which marked the 20th anniversary of the event.

On Saturday, Ravenswood returns to the league’s spotlight game for its 30th anniversary when it plays Gilmer County for the LKC championship at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Waco Center at Glenville State College. It marks the first trip to the title game for the Red Devils since 2008.

The Little Kanawha Conference Night of Champions has been so successful that the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference patterned its Night of Champions after the LKC event when the MSAC started its own season-ending gala in 2003.

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

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