WINFIELD — When a team sneaks up and makes a splash at the state tournament, as Winfield did last season in Class AAA, it usually becomes a little bit harder to sustain success.
But that hasn’t slowed the Generals this season.
Seth Shilot turned in a huge double-double with 28 points and 17 rebounds and supplied several key moments Friday night as Winfield held off Putnam County rival Hurricane 72-66 in front of a large crowd at Winfield High School.
Josh Cook, who played AAU ball instead of for the high school team last season, came off the bench to provide 21 points for the Generals (8-1), who led 40-26 at halftime and withstood several rally attempts by the Class AAAA Redskins (4-7).
“We did what we wanted for probably half the game,’’ said Winfield coach Chris Stephens. “We got that 14-, 16-point lead and kind of rolled with the group we had that got us there and all we needed was one big bucket [to finally break it open]. We have a deep bench, but we had a bunch of guys cold on the bench and just didn’t feel like we could pull the trigger and put those guys in that situation.’’
Winfield reached the state tournament semifinals last season, knocking off No. 2 seed Fairmont Senior 49-45 in the opening round. That was the high mark of a year-ending run by the Generals, who were hovering around .500 at midseason.
This season, they started 7-0 before being nosed out at No. 1-ranked Logan 62-58 on Tuesday and are stationed at No. 4 this week in the state Class AAA poll. Stephens, however, expects more from his group.
“We tell our guys we have to come with energy and intensity every game,’’ Stephens said, “and that’s what we did last year. That’s what I hope people say when they’ve got to play Winfield — now we’re in for a battle. Our guys are just not executing to the point where we want them to. When we do that, we’re going to be very good, so we’ll plug away at practice.’’
Shilot, who blossomed down the stretch last season when the Generals won seven of eight games in one stretch, was there at almost every big moment Friday and scored nine of his 28 points in the fourth quarter.
After Hurricane tallied the first nine points of the second half and was within five points, Shilot hit a 3-pointer from the corner and immediately added a rebound basket to bump the lead to 48-38. When the Skins cut it to 52-44 after three quarters, Shilot opened the final period with a three-point play.
Finally, Shilot tacked on a follow shot and, moments later, another 3 to bump the margin back to 62-48 with 6:25 left in the game.
Hurricane kept hustling behind the play of Nas’jaih Jones (19 points), Dillon Tingler (13 points, six rebounds) and JT James (12 points, five rebounds), but could not sustain any lengthy runs. The Skins also led 8-0 in the opening minutes of the contest.
“We would actually run an offense that would get us going,’’ said Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland of the quick starts to each half.
“We would make more than one pass instead of attack the basket and we were getting more people involved and get moving. When we do that, we’re pretty good. When we don’t do that, we’re not good. And that’s the whole crux of our season. The games we’ve lost, we’ve been offensively really stagnant and the games we’ve won, we’ve been really fluid.’’
Gabriel Beny Till pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds and scored eight points for Hurricane, which led 42-36 off the glass. Each team had 11 turnovers.
“We were down 14 and battled back and had a chance … to cut it to four,’’ Sutherland said. “We had our opportunities. We never quit, and that’s one thing about this team. We play hard. We’ve just got to get smarter on the offensive end, and that will take care of a lot of our problems.’’
Cook sank four of Winfield’s eight 3-pointers. Tanner Laughery added nine points.
Stephens doesn’t want his players to be satisfied with their 8-1 start.
“As a coach,’’ he said, “you want to win every game by the margin you feel like you could if you execute all the way through. The kids are happy, but as coaches, we want to perform very good every single game.’’
Winfield 72, Hurricane 66
Jones 7 4-8 19, James 4 3-4 12, Tingler 5 2-2 13, Whittington 2 1-2 5, Beny Till 4 0-2 8, Clark 2 1-4 5, Taylor 0 2-4 2, Richmond 1 0-0 2, totals 25 13-26 66
Crompton 1 0-0 3, Shilot 11 4-7 28, Ta.Laughery 3 3-3 9, Musick 2 0-0 4, Cook 5 7-8 21, Knight 2 2-4 7, totals 24 16-22 72
3-point goals: Hurricane 3 (Jones, James, Tingler), Winfield 8 (Crompton, Shilot 2, Cook 4, Knight)