For 16 prep girls basketball teams, the best way to beat the heat on Tuesday was to get in the gym.
The second annual Nitro Lady Wildcats Summer Hoops Shootout was held in Nitro High School’s main and auxiliary gymnasiums on Tuesday, bringing together some of the state’s premier programs for some offseason work.
Games were split into two 20-minute halves with running clocks until the final minute and each coach was given three timeouts. In the interest of speeding things up, one foul shot was awarded on shooting fouls. If it was made, two points was given to the team. If it was missed, zero points were scored.
Involved in Tuesday’s proceedings were Class AAAA defending champion Huntington, Class AAA title holder Logan and several other state-tournament teams from last year including George Washington, Nitro, Charleston Catholic, Sissonville, Capital and North Marion.
While game results didn’t mean nearly as much as court time to most coaches, Tuesday’s event was a win for nearly all involved.
“It gives a chance for the new kids — and we don’t have very many new kids — to see what we do,” Huntington coach Lonnie Lucas said. “We don’t do it very well at this time but at least they get to run up and down the floor. I don’t do it a lot with them in the summer. I let them play AAU ball.”
Indeed, Tuesday gave coaches a chance to be with their teams and also gave players a chance to build on-the-court chemistry far ahead of next year’s season.
“The girls get in the gym and I get a chance to see them all together,” Spring Valley coach Bo Miller said. “With the rules, you can only see them so many times, so we take advantage of it when we can. We’re playing about 10 times this summer and will get a lot of work in, get a little cohesion, some team bonding.”
While some teams — like the Timberwolves — used the shootout as one of several dates to play together, others were getting together for the first time and in some cases, possibly the only time. That included Capital and coach Michael Cunningham.
“I just want them to have fun, to be honest with you,” Cunningham said. “I’m a coach that really don’t like to take their summer. I kind of leave it up to my athletes. If they want to work we can have flex-day practices or I’ll have an open gym with a parent in and they can get in the gym.”
Other teams participating on Tuesday included Lincoln, Oak Hill, East Fairmont, Ripley, Winfield, Woodrow Wilson and Greenbrier East.
The host Wildcats are looking for a fourth-straight trip to the state tournament under coach Pat Jones. That includes a state championship in 2020.
Nitro has its own holes to fill as well in losing four starters from a year ago. But the Wildcats had nearly a full bench on Tuesday with several incoming freshmen logging minutes and that, along with competition, are what make the event a must on the schedule of area hoops coaches.
“Especially having some of the top teams in the state here, that helps as well,” Jones said. “Bring them in here and let them see the gym and stuff — it’s a great atmosphere in here today.”