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Boys hoops notes: Highlanders hope for more from Mikal Dawson

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail
Huntington’s Mikal Dawson grabs a rebound ahead of the Capital trio of (left to right) Anthony Pittman, Dorian Etheridge and Leondre’ Rogers (11).

No one issues a definitive player of the year candidates list in West Virginia, but safe to say that Mikal Dawson’s name would be on there if one did exist.

Dawson, a 6-foot-4 junior forward, is the leading scorer for a Highlanders squad that has played in the last three Class AAA state tournament championship games. He averages 21.2 points and has boosted his team to No. 7 in the state rankings.

He has the skills to take over games for long stretches, but sometimes Dawson can blend in a bit too much — such as Thursday’s 70-46 home loss to No. 1 Capital.

Dawson took only nine shots in the entire game. He still led the Highlanders in scoring with 19 points, but didn’t assert himself very often. The last time Huntington scored fewer points in a game was the tail end of the 2011-12 season when it got 45 in a loss to Logan.

“And he had two rebounds the entire game,” said Highlanders coach Ron Hess. “He did a lot of standing and watching tonight. In order for us to beat a team like this, he has to have a good basketball game, and he wasn’t as aggressive tonight.

“We came off that big win [against No. 2 University] on Tuesday and I thought we were going to come in here and play a good basketball game. And we just didn’t play well at all.”

In his previous game against the Cougars this season, a 70-62 loss at Capital on Jan. 17, Dawson took 20 shots and scored 24 points.

“We felt like he and his brother [John Dawson] had pretty good games the last game,” said Capital coach Matt Greene, “so we wanted to try and control them, absolutely. They’re good players and they’re going to hit shots, so we wanted to make them work as much as we could. We wanted to key on them. That was the main thing.”

SC staying hot

During the first week of 2017, South Charleston was carrying around an unfamiliar record — a losing one.

The Black Eagles were suffering through a four-game losing streak, and though all four losses came to top-10 Class AAA teams, that stretch left them with a 3-4 record.

For a program that’s put together 16 straight winning seasons, that wasn’t good enough. And they’ve taken measures to stop the bleeding.

South Charleston enters this week with an eight-game win streak as it prepares for Saturday’s bout versus No. 1 Capital in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game at the SC Community Center. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.

Black Eagles coach Vic Herbert, who had never before seen one of his teams at Logan or SC lose four in a row, admitted the growing pains were tough, but is glad they didn’t last.

“Mainly, it was just gaining some experience,” Herbert said. “We lost four in a row early, and that was hard to take. It was rough. But since then, we kind of righted the ship when we could have just sulked or hung our heads and said, ‘This season’s over.’ Our kids didn’t do that and battled back and won 11 out of 12 and are playing really, really good.”

Herbert was asked what’s made the biggest difference.

“We weren’t experienced at the beginning of the year,” he said, “and now you can’t say that. Our guard play has gotten better, I think, and we’re starting to realize who needs to have the ball. Defensively, I think we’ve also played a lot better in this 10-, 12-game stretch.”

Tamon Scruggs, the team’s leading scorer and unquestioned leader, said the players also grew up individually.

“I feel like we’re playing more as a team,” Scruggs said. “At the beginning, a lot of people were worried about going for theirs and going one-on-one. And I told them we’ve got to start playing as a team, moving the ball and getting the ball to the open man, and I think that’s helped us a lot.

“Earlier, we had a lot of arguing. We weren’t really a team off the court. So we had a few meetings and talks and stuff, and I think that helps. And now we’re where we need to be.”

Baby Beavers growing up

Bluefield fans got a glimpse of the future — perhaps the very near future — the previous Saturday when coach Buster Large unleashed four freshman reserves during a 72-54 win against Poca during the Big Atlantic Classic AA finals in Beckley.

Jahiem House, Braden Crews, Jamere Edwards and Derrick Blevins all saw appreciable minutes for the No. 1 Beavers, who broke the game open in the second half with the help of their youthful subs.

“I’ll be honest with you — I’m very proud of those freshmen,” Large said. “They all got in there and played very, very confidently, and they’re very talented basketball players and they’re going to be really good down the road. We were waiting for this opportunity to get them in.

“Fortunately, when Donta’ Hopkins went out [with foul trouble], they got thrown into a big-time game and played very, very well and with a lot of confidence. In three weeks, we want to be able to go in eight, nine deep for tournament play, and that just makes you a strong, strong ball club.”

Fast breaks

n The last 38 field goals for Sissonville’s Brady Jones, covering 10 games, are all 3-pointers.

n Nitro (12-7) has assured itself of its first winning season since 2007-08, when it went 12-11.

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

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