Joseph Udoh

Joseph Udoh (right), shown waiting to be introduced as a member of Sissonville’s starting lineup, has helped the youthful Indians improve since joining the squad six games ago.

Even though Sissonville has lost 11 of 13 games under first-year coach Ben Pannell, the Indians are showing signs of improvement as the season begins its stretch run.

A large part of that improvement has come from the addition of 6-foot-9 junior Joseph Udoh, a native of Nigeria who became eligible to join the squad six games ago.

Udoh is averaging 15.3 points and most nights pulls down double figures in rebounds. In Thursday’s 71-68 loss to Teays Valley Christian, he turned in 20 points, 15 rebounds, four steals, two blocks and two assists. His length alone presents an obstacle for opponents thinking of taking the ball to the basket.

“We’re learning a lot on defense,’’ Pannell said. “With Joseph, we can switch everything [positions] one through four, and that’s one thing that we’re doing really well with our big. We’re working on switching, we’re jamming, we’re doing different stuff with ball screens.

“We’re not fully where we need to be at with it, but all of this stuff is just setting the foundation, which is what we wanted to do from the beginning. Just set the foundation for next year and years to come.’’

Sissonville began the season with little playing experience on its roster. The Indians have only three seniors, and just one who scored a varsity point last year in low post Brody Danberry. Guard Dylan Griffith, now a junior, was also a heavy contributor last season.

A look at the numbers tells you where the Indians are getting better. In their first seven games, they went 1-6 and the average losing margin was 29 points. With Udoh on the floor, that losing margin has dwindled to 15 points over the past six games (with a 1-5 record). Besides losing to TVC by three points. Sissonville fell to Ravenswood by four points.

In addition, four of the team’s five highest-scoring games of the season have come since the addition of Udoh.

“Offensively, we obviously need to work on shooting,’’ Pannell said, “and our shot selection at times. Also, we need to get better at guarding ball screens and getting good ball pressure and helping on our help side.

“I think the biggest thing is we have to go help, and then they hit the guy who went to help his man and then they hit the open shot because nobody was rotating the way they needed to. But we’re still developing every day.’’

Shot in the arm for GW

George Washington (9-5) received quite a boost Friday with its 63-54 win against No. 4 Cabell Midland. Prior to that, the Patriots were just 2-4 this season against teams with winning records, beating St. Albans and Capital.

But GW led the final three quarters against the Knights (13-2), building their advantage as large as 20 points. Patriots coach Rick Greene said he learned a lot about his team, because Midland is capable of beating opponents in a variety of ways with All-State guard Chandler Schmidt, 6-9 Sean Marcum, 6-4 jumping jack K.K. Siebert and flashy freshman guard Dominic Schmidt.

“You do [learn],’’ Greene said, “because they really don’t have a weakness. They can shoot deep and Chandler can shoot deep and he’s so strong he can take you and post you up. What an excellent player. And Marcum is just hard to deal with and Siebert is everywhere and the younger Schmidt, he lights it up. They’re balanced. They can score inside and outside. They can score off the dribble. So we’re really, really, really happy to get this win.’’

With the victory, the Patriots stayed alive in their quest to capture one of the top four spots in the Mountain State Athletic Conference standings, enhancing their position for the league’s Feb. 22 Night of Champions event at the South Charleston Community Center.

Irish put to the test

If Charleston Catholic’s intent was to test its team with a demanding schedule, then consider the challenge met.

Currently involved in a seven-game stretch from Jan. 21 to Feb. 8, the Irish are running the gauntlet, so to speak.

That stretch includes two games against Greater Beckley Christian (12-3), the No. 3 team in Class A, a victory against AAA No. 4 Cabell Midland (13-2), a loss to AA No. 5 Poca (13-2), a Feb. 8 date with unbeaten Pendleton County (13-0), the No. 8 team in Class A, and games against defending Class A champion Webster County and 2016 champ St. Joseph.

The combined record of those six teams going into Saturday’s games was 69-19. Catholic has split the first four games of that stretch.

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