ATHENS — It’s always great for a young team to garner experience during the course of postseason play.
However, it’s even better when said unit shows off the poise and experience during a postseason trip.
And though the South Webster Jeeps’ boys basketball program wasn’t able to garner its seventh district championship since the turn of the century, Brenton Cole’s squad proved that it could very well be a district championship contender, and possibly more, for a long time to come.
While South Webster ultimately fell to the Coal Grove Hornets’ boys basketball program, 61-39, in a Division IV, Athens I District Final inside the Ohio University Convocation Center, Cole knows that the sky could very well be the limit for his Jeeps in the future.
But it will take the proper attention to detail in order to reach that potential over the coming years.
“I talked about what we need to be doing during the spring and summer in the locker room,” Cole said. “I asked them, ‘How many seniors are we graduating? How many guys are leaving?’ They just kind of looked at each other and held up a zero. It’s on them to work, get better over the summer, and not make this a one-time trip.”
Over the initial frame of action, South Webster proved to be outstanding early on as the Jeeps sprinted out to a 12-4 first-quarter lead behind the play of Shiloah Blevins, who, well, did Shiloah Blevins things throughout the course of Saturday’s contest. Blevins knocked down two consecutive treys from the same spot on the left wing, got on the pogo stick for a putback, and added a simply ridiculous fadeaway with at least one Coal Grove defender hanging all over the 6-5 junior. His 10 points — arguably the best quarter of basketball from any individual player during the day on Saturday — were vital in South Webster’s eight-point advantage.
“Shiloah’s a great player,” Cole said. “I have said that all year, both before his ankle injury and after it. It is just hard to stop him. He plays with a tenacious attitude, he rebounds, and most importantly, he holds guys accountable during practice. Those are qualities that you’ve got to have to be successful.”
But after a Coal Grove timeout with 3:37 to play in the opening quarter of action to regroup, the Hornets proceeded to take control of the contest in a big way.
In less than a two minute span, Coal Grove flipped the script as the Hornets began to spread the floor with its play in transition by going on an 18-2 run that ultimately stretched to the second quarter of action.
During that span, Coal Grove’s Cory Borders nailed two treys from the left corner that were critical for Coal Grove as it took a 22-14 advantage. When Blevins scored inside again to cut the Hornets’ lead to 22-16, Borders drilled a third trey from the left wing to extend the advantage to nine, then the 5-10 sophomore added a fourth three-pointer to put the lead to a game-high 15 points, 36-21, at halftime as a 32-9 run over the half’s final 11:37 — and all of Borders’ 12 points coming during the run — changed the entire complexion of the contest.
“Coal Grove definitely got into their flow,” Cole said. “I called a timeout early, which is uncharacteristic, but I knew what was coming as far as them getting their plays off. (The timeout) didn’t slow them down.”
During the third quarter of play, South Webster regained its consistency on the defensive end as the Jeeps held Coal Grove to just five points during the opening four and a half minutes in the third quarter of action. However, South Webster was held to just one point during that same period of time, and over the remaining 3:30 of play, Coal Grove was able to extend its advantage to a 49-26 mark after three quarters of action as Aaron Music, who finished with a team-high 14 points for the Hornets, and Sam Angelo, who also finished with 12, scored six points apiece in the quarter. South Webster couldn’t cut the lead below 18 points over the remaining distance.
“We came out firing on all cylinders,” Cole said. “They were a little bit sluggish. But Coal Grove is a second-half team, and that showed. We gave up too many offensive boards to them, and that allowed them to make runs and obtain easy points. If you continue to let them shoot two or three times, then you’re not going to have a good outcome. They’re strong, big kids. I was worried about that all week with their ability to pound the offensive boards, and that’s exactly what happened.”
While the loss meant that South Webster fell one game short of a regional berth for the second straight season, its 11th berth at the Convo over the last 15 seasons is arguably one that showcases as much, if not more, potential than many of the previous 10. Not only do the Jeeps return everyone, including a seven-man senior class and a five-man junior class, Tanner Voiers should also contribute heavily as a sophomore. Two back-to-back loaded classes of players at the seventh and eighth-grade level will also have the Jeeps chalk-full of talent coming out of its feeder system.
“I knew what I was getting into,” Cole said. “We were definitely going in the right direction. It was so easy to say, ‘Hey, (Brenton) Cole’s here, so we’re just going to be moving right along and we know what we’re going to be doing. It’s very similar to (Ryan) Fenton’s ideas and philosophies, so it really wasn’t that bad. The program was being built by Coach Fenton and the work that he had put in. We just want to keep continuing on. I’ve coached with a lot of good coaches in Marc Kresicher and Jeff Bradley getting us started in (making Convo appearances), and the culture that they built is the culture that we want to have here. We expect to be here and we expect to be playing well when the tournament comes around. (Steven) Ater built that same kind of culture when I served under him. We want that to continue to be an expectation, and we’re going to work hard to strive for the goals that we have set as a program.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT