It’s been an up-and-down season so far for St. Albans, something coach Bryan England readily recognizes. Still, that signals marked improvement for the Red Dragons.
St. Albans leveled its record at 10-10 Friday evening with a 63-57 overtime win at Parkersburg, a victory that also evened its Mountain State Athletic Conference record at 5-5.
Those 10 wins equal the most for the Red Dragons in a season since 2009-10, which is when SA posted its last winning record (11-10). And the Dragons, without a senior among their top six players, have at least three games remaining on the schedule — a chance to chalk up even more wins.
“Our coaches and players know that there is improvement that needs to be made,’’ England said, “but as a staff we are trying to build this program on the foundation of positivity and belief.
“I just think the biggest thing for us is finding that consistency. Out of our top six, we’ve got two sophomores and a freshman. So we’re still gaining experience and learning how to be consistent. I think as the season’s gone on, we’ve gotten better.’’
There have been plenty of highs, a few lows and some tantalizing near-misses for SA this season:
n One of the Dragons’ first wins was a 67-46 conquest of South Charleston on Dec. 20, back when the Black Eagles were at full strength. It marked the first victory for SA over SC since the 2009-10 season, and ended a nine-game losing streak against the Black Eagles.
n That was followed a couple of weeks later by a pulsating 52-51 win against Hurricane (15-4), which has been ranked in the top 10 of Class AAA all season. Jaimelle Claytor hit a 3-pointer for SA with five seconds left.
n Later in the season, the Dragons knocked off Spring Valley 59-55 when the Timberwolves were ranked No. 10 in AAA, and a week later, avenged an earlier loss to cross-river rival and AA contender Nitro with a no-doubt 77-61 victory.
n The lows include an inexplicable 76-31 setback to Morgantown on Dec. 15 during the FCA Classic at West Virginia State and recent losses of 72-49 at Cabell Midland and 64-48 to Class AA Wyoming East in the Little General Shootout, also at State.
n The “almosts’’ include three close losses in a nine-day stretch against state power Woodrow Wilson (67-62), AA contender Nicholas County (63-61) and AAA-ranked Capital (51-46).
“It’s just finding that consistency,’’ England said. “It’s the word we’ve been preaching to our guys. With more experience comes more consistency, and we’re gaining that. We’re looking to ride the positive win we had against Nitro the rest of the regular season and into our tournament games.’’
Even a break-even season would be a big step forward for St. Albans, which went 7-15 last year in England’s first season. The overall records prior to that, going backward, were 2-21 in 2016-17, then 10-13, 5-20, 4-19, 4-19, 5-17 and 7-15 in 2010-11.
Before this season, St. Albans had gone 44-139 since that 2009-10 season (a winning percentage of .240) and was just 22-85 in MSAC games (.206).
England has strengthened the program using defense as a building block. The Red Dragons allow only 55.8 points per game and are 5-1 when holding opponents under 50 points.
“Most definitely, it’s our defense,’’ England said. “That has been our biggest strength. There have been some real good teams and we’ve held them down. Spring Valley was averaging 70-plus points and we held them to 55. We’ve had some really good games defensively.
“As the season has gone on, we have found ways to put the ball in the basket better. It’s something we’ve struggled with at times, but the more the ball moves, the higher our shooting percentage goes. We had great ball movement against Nitro, and that’s the reason we shot 50 percent from the field.’’
Junior guard Rodney Toler, a third-year starter, leads the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game and has canned a team-best 56 3-pointers. He reached the 1,000-point career mark Friday at Parkersburg. Claytor, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, is next in scoring (11.7 ppg) and tops the team in rebounding (6.7 pg) and assists (58).
Rounding out the top six players are junior Ethan Clay (8.7 ppg), sophomore Bones Johnson (8.0), junior Braxton Good (5.4) and freshman NuNu Claytor (3.6).
Johnson has made 31 3s, giving SA the complement it needed to replace Reggie Jackson, last season’s second-leading scorer and No. 2 long-range shooter behind Toler. Jackson hasn’t been able to play this season due to a football injury.
“Bones has done a good job of being ready to shoot,’’ England said. “He’s a catch-and-shoot guy like Reggie Jackson was, and him stepping up gives us that third scoring option, which has been huge for us in some of the games we’ve won.’’
St. Albans hosts Cabell Midland on Tuesday.