West zones Oaks out


WEST PORTSMOUTH — The West Senators, simply put, started out in a zone —in more ways than one —on Friday night against Oak Hill.

And, that fast start — and throw in the Senators’ steady middle two periods of play —and West won a boys basketball game it needed to have to keep early-season Southern Ohio Conference Division II pace.

The Senators never trailed, broke the tilt’s only tie at 3-3, and led by as much as 26 points twice in the second half — all en route to a 53-37 victory over the visiting Oaks at The Rock.

With West winning, the Senators are now an even 3-3 —and at 2-2 in the wintry rugged SOC II.

From Friday night’s results, Minford is the only league club still undefeated —as Valley has only one loss at Minford, while Wheelersburg suffered its first loss in a 62-59 setback at Eastern.

Everybody else has at least two league losses including Oak Hill, which fell to 2-3 and 1-2 — after only scoring 37 against West’s half-court zone.

Two years ago, in West head coach Caleb McClanahan’s first season, the Senators became the “Winators” with a simple formula for success —rotate in up to 11 deep and play a 1-3-1 full-court zone defense.

West won its first sectional championship since 1998, and McClanahan captured Southeast District Division III Co-Coach the Year honors from the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association.

Fast forward to now, and these football-centric Senators —some still recovering from the wear and tear and grind of an 11-win, SOC II championship and regional semifinalist season — showed signs of what they can do on the basketball floor.

“I loved the energy we came out with tonight. We’re still searching for an identity six games in, but it feels we’re starting to turn the corner a little bit,” said McClanahan. “We’re starting to look better, still got the injury bug a bit with three prominent role players on the bench from football but they will be back soon. If we’re going to play this style, in my opinion we need to play eight, nine or 10 kids. Right now, numbers eight, nine and 10 are sitting on the sideline with injuries. We will be able to rotate more, rotate better, and our defense and our intensity will be even better once we get those guys back.”

Their zone on Friday night, a 1-3-1 with a 2-3 look at times, shaded the Oaks’ shooters —and stymied Oak Hill to single digits of five, six and eight in the opening three cantos.

Meanwhile, West made shots against Oak Hill’s zone look —as the Senators stormed out to a 20-5 advantage at the first stop.

For those into counting, that was also 30-11 at halftime and 41-19 following three frames —as the Senators scored 20 total field goals to Oak Hill’s 13, and meshed 8-of-11 free throws to the Oaks’ 6-of-8.

Both squads made five three-point goals apiece, but both coaches acknowledged the activeness of West’s zone —as the Senators’ steals and layups resulted in easy points and extended the lead out.

The Senators stormed out to a 20-3 lead —with the Oaks’ only first-period points coming on a Garrett McKinniss corner three-pointer for the 3-3 tie only a minute and 18 seconds in, and Aidan Hall hitting a putback basket at the buzzer.

“We came out in that first quarter and I think we stunned them with how intense and how hard we were playing,” said McClanahan.

“Their zone bothered us. They are active at the top and really disciplined with it. We didn’t do a good job getting the ball to spots we needed to or being aggressive enough off the dribble. But as active as they were with it, credit to them for staying active in it,” said OHHS coach Heath McKinniss. “The shots we did get we didn’t make, and we turned the ball over a lot. Just bad effort first half. We did compete better in the second half, but when you’re down 30-11 at halftime, sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself you can get back in it.”

West wasn’t about to let the Oaks get too close, as the 16-point final was actually the closest they came since the end of the first quarter.

West junior Trevor Fike finished with a game-high 14 points, and was the only player on either side to post in double figures.

Fike’s fury of an opening three minutes featured two corner-pocket trifectas for a 6-3 lead, then his steal and layup landed to make it 8-3 at the 5:37 mark.

Levi Patrick scored off an inbounds play, Jeffery Bishop bucketed an alley-oop, then Ryan Sissel scored five consecutive points —including a steal and layup for an old-fashioned three-point play.

With 1:20 left in the first period, Sissel assisted on the first of two triples by Brayden Vernier —as his first made it 20-3, with the other a corner-pocket job that made it 39-15 late in the third.

Without a pure scorer like the graduated standout Jesse Dixon, or even a settling influence for a point guard like fellow graduate Noah Coleman, the Senators are doing everything this year —as McClanahan commented —” by committee”.

“We’ve really been focusing on decision-making. We don’t have what I would call a true point guard. We have everybody being decent ballhandlers, but as far as that true point guard, we’ve had Noah Coleman the past two years kind of calming the storm for us and getting us in our offense,” said the coach. “It might be Trevor Fike one night for us, the next night Ryan Sissel, the next night Jeffery Bishop, the next night Brayden Vernier. You just never know. But I like having that team structure, a lot like our first year.”

Following Fike, who went 2-for-4 at the stripe in the third and ended with two fourth-quarter baskets, Sissel sank 4-of-4 second-half freebies towards netting nine points, as Vernier notched a deuce in the third —giving him eight.

Bishop and Mitchell Irwin added seven points apiece on three baskets each, including Irwin on a three-point goal only 40 seconds into the second stanza to make it 23-5.

Patrick put in three field goals for six, and Diamonte Skaggs scored a bucket in the third —for the first of two 26-point West leads.

But, McClanahan kept emphasizing “that we just have to guard.”

That focuses on zoning teams out —which West did just that to the Oaks.

“We had some shots falling tonight too. We’re not a great shooting team, but if we shoot shots inside-out and get in rhythm, we have kids who can make shots,” said McClanahan. “But we have to stay focused on continuing to get better until we are fully healthy and we have our identity and play our zone like we did tonight.”

* * *

Oak Hill 5 6 8 18 —37

West 20 10 11 12 —53

OAK HILL 37 (2-3, 1-2 SOC II)

Garrett McKinniss 1 2-2 5, Andy Meldick 1 2-2 4, A.J. Harrison 3 0-0 9, Kade Kinzel 2 0-0 4, Mason Davis 0 0-0 0, Aidan Hall 3 2-3 8, Gavin Howell 1 0-0 3, Joseph Anteby 1 0-0 2, Rylan Sams 0 0-0 0, Evan Fisher 1 0-2 2; TOTALS 13 6-9 37 ; Three-point field goals: 5 (A.J. Harrison 3, Garrett McKinniss and Gavin Howell 1 apiece)

WEST 53 (3-3, 2-2 SOC II)

Brayden Vernier 3 0-0 8, Levi Patrick 3 0-0 6, Mitchell Irwin 3 0-0 7, Jeffery Bishop 3 1-2 7, Diamonte Skaggs 1 0-0 2, Ryan Sissel 2 5-5 9, Trevor Fike 5 2-4 14; TOTALS 20 8-11 53; Three-point field goals: 5 (Brayden Vernier and Trevor Fike 2 apiece, Mitchell Irwin 1)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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