At present, things are going along rather swimmingly for Cabell Midland.
The Knights (10-0) are the lone remaining unbeaten Class AAA team in West Virginia, took over the No. 1 state ranking from defending champion University this week, and are also the only team in the Mountain State Athletic Conference without a league loss.
So far, so good. But how long can Midland maintain its current level of play employing just a six-man rotation? That’s all the manpower the Knights’ used in recent wins against Capital and South Charleston — the five starters and reserve Cory Sweeney.
Now, that’s a pretty potent lineup, led by sophomore All-State guard Chandler Schmidt (19.9 points per game), 6-foot-4 junior jumping jack K.K. Siebert (13.7) and freshman guard and 3-point marksman Dominic Schmidt (11.5), Chandler’s younger brother. Add in 6-9 Sean Marcum and Palmer Riggio (19 points versus SC) and you’re onto something.
But, again, just one sub?
“In reality, we’ve got eight guys, nine guys we could play,’’ said first-year Knights coach J.J. Martin, “but we’ve got our top six in the rotation who have been doing a really good job.
“We teach our guys to play good defense and show your hands, and try to keep them out of foul trouble. And that’s been a big key, playing these six guys, is they really haven’t gotten in much foul trouble. Now if we run into foul trouble, it could be a different story.’’
Martin said sophomore guard Kyle Frost has gotten some key minutes earlier in the season, and is the most likely player to join the rotation if needed.
“He’s a really good shooter,’’ Martin said, “so if we need him, he’ll come in. He’s ready to play now, so we’ll look to get him in.
“We’re always working to develop some other guys. We’ve got some good freshmen we’ve moved up now, so it’s really all about player development. We tell our guys, ‘If you can show you can play against our top five, top six in practice, then you’re ready to play in varsity games.’’’
Sittin’ on SuttonJosh Daniel, South Charleston’s first-year coach, knew he had a dynamic scorer when the season started in senior guard Quay Sutton, and Sutton has done nothing to change his mind, leading the team in scoring at 22.5 points per game.
However, Daniel would like for the Black Eagles not to rely as much on Sutton as they have recently.
In last week’s 60-51 loss at Cabell Midland, SC took 49 shots from the floor, 26 by Sutton. Of the Black Eagles’ 14 free throws, Sutton had nine attempts. He did score 30 points, but without No. 2 scorer Harold Pannell (serving a school suspension), SC has found itself one-dimensional on offense the last two games.
“When we were playing well there for a four-game stretch, when we won four in a row,’’ Daniel said, “we had some other guys making shots and getting involved. The last couple games, we haven’t shot the ball well from the perimeter and we need some of our secondary guys to score for us to be a good team.
“Obviously, having Pannell out — he’s a guy we rely on to make shots and he has made some big shots this year — that hurts as well. But for some other guys, it’s an opportunity for them to step up.’’
Tigers’ streak endedChapmanville saw one of the state’s more impressive streaks come to an end last week when it lost at Logan 72-61. It ended the Tigers’ three-season, 54-game winning run against state teams. The previous such setback came to Fairmont Senior in the 2017 Class AA finals.
Tigers coach Brad Napier marveled at how long his team managed to avoid losing to another state team.
“It hurt a lot of our guys, guys who have been there three, four years,’’ Napier said. “They invested a lot into this. We were bound to have an off night against a good team. But take nothing away from Logan. They were better than us in every aspect of the game.
“But we have been lucky not having a bad game against a team that’s really capable of beating us, to be honest, and we did. We played really bad and Logan played exceptionally well. Still, it’s one of those things where if you told me to begin the season that we’d be 10-2 against an extremely tough schedule, I’d have gladly taken that.’’
Getting ’em readyGeorge Washington veteran coach Rick Greene said there aren’t very many opportunities during the grind of a 22-game regular season — which includes at least half of your games against familiar MSAC rivals — to prepare for a certain upcoming opponent.
Teams play two or three games a week, which leaves just a day or so of practice in between — and that’s not counting potential days missed when classes are called off due to tricky winter weather.
So Greene, unlike a football coach who formulates a specific game plan for each week’s opponent, finds himself preparing less for the next team and spending more time on his own players’ and their skills.
“I think it’s always about getting yourself ready,’’ Greene said. “I think that’s the first thing. When we practice, we always say, ‘It’s GW versus GW.’ If we do what we can do and somebody beats us, you shake their hand and say, ‘OK, they’re better.’
“You get in the conference and it’s like playoff basketball most nights. That’s why it’s hard to get in a lot of things [in practice], because everybody knows what you’re doing.’’
Scott’s 1-2 punchLodged in Class AA Region 4 Section 2 with power teams such as Chapmanville and Logan — not to mention Poca in the opposite section — Scott finds itself in a precarious position for the postseason.
But the Skyhawks (9-5) have something going for them that many teams don’t — two bona fide big-time scorers in senior guard Jon Hamilton and senior forward Jagger Bell. Hamilton has tallied more than 1,200 career points and Bell is just over 1,100. This season, Hamilton averages 20.1 points per game and Bell 18.1.
That inside-outside combination figures to keep the Skyhawks in the game most nights, no matter the stakes.
“Absolutely,’’ said coach Shawn Ballard. “You couldn’t ask for two better kids. Early on, everyone knew how talented those two are, and we relied on their offense a little too much instead of playing the game the right way, instinctively. Now, we recognize that and teams have trouble stopping both of them.
“If you focus too much on them, we also have some other guys that can put the ball in the hole. You spend too much time trying to take away those two guys and we’ve got other guys who can step up and knock shots down. They’re a tough 1-2 punch when Jon’s hitting outside and Jagger’s got some mismatches inside. They’re tough to guard.’’
MSAC’s new NOCThe MSAC has revised its Night of Champions format, which previously had only the league’s top four boys and girls teams playing at the South Charleston Community Center at the end of the regular season, all on Saturday afternoon and evening, following the skills competitions held in the morning.
Now, all but the 11th-place teams get the chance to play a game at the SC Community Center as the event has been expanded to two days.
On Friday, Feb. 21, the girls ninth-place game begins at 4 p.m., followed by the boys ninth-place game and the skills events. On Saturday, Feb. 22, there are six contests — the girls seventh-place game at 8:30 a.m., followed by the boys seventh-place game, the girls and boys fifth-place games and the girls and boys third-place games. The girls championship game is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. and the boys at 8:05.
The 11th-place teams in the girls and boys standings get games at former MSAC member Ripley on Feb. 20-21.