PORTSMOUTH — Conference races are starting to sort themselves out, records continue to fall as the season goes along and near-future non-league games hold tourney seeding implications.
Snow managed to wipe out Saturday’s slate of contests but the storm couldn’t cancel the week that was.
As we prepare for another crucial week entering the regular season homestretch, take a look at this week’s Shootaround:
A. For the first time this season, I got the chance to watch Notre Dame’s Ava Hassel perform Thursday evening. In a 48-24 win over Clay, Hassel scored 15 points and added three assists. But early on, it became ever-apparent that Hassel is the motor that keeps the Titans’ machine running. She runs the floor well, makes good decisions while taking care of the basketball, finds the open teammate habitually and, oh yeah, she can score whenever she feels the need. Only a sophomore, Notre Dame already has one of the best point guards in the area … a scary thought.
B. Wheelersburg’s boys continue to pass tough tests. In a 70-62 road win over South Webster Tuesday, the Pirates trailed 48-44 after three quarters. But behind Tanner Holden and Connor Mullins — the usual suspects — Wheelersburg won the fourth 26-14, earning a win. It’s the type of win that becomes a benchmark of a successful year. Last season, ‘Burg won a Division III district title. There’s no reason to believe the state’s No. 2 ranked team in D-III doesn’t repeat.
C. Tuesday evening, Western earned a hard-fought 68-57 win over New Boston. In that contest, the Indians received quite the performance from senior Alex Humphrey, who scored 21 points off the bench. He followed that up with an 18-point outing in a 73-30 win over Notre Dame Friday. The point? Humphrey is really good. He can sometime be overlooked due to the superb play of teammate Lane Brewster. But if you’re looking for a somewhat hidden impact player on Western’s roster, you can find one in him.
Wheelersburg girls coach Dusty Spradlin after Monday’s 80-39 loss to Vinton County:
“Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to the other team. I felt like in the first half, we competed pretty hard. We didn’t cash in on a couple of opportunities and against somebody that’s this talented … we went into halftime down 19 and didn’t feel like we played that poorly. We have to put it behind us. It’s always nice to get out there and see some really good competition.”
Western coach P.J. Fitch on guard Alex Humphrey:
“Athletically, there are few kids around that can handle him. He’s got a real good pull-up jumper, he’s a good slasher and if you leave him open for 3, he can hit that. So that’s a triple threat. He’s a handful when he’s engaged and one of the best defensive players in the area when he wants to lock it down.”
IMPACT PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
This week’s first selection is an incredibly easy choice. Portsmouth’s Matthew Fraulini was piping hot from the field in Friday’s 80-61 win over Rock Hill. Fraulini set a new school scoring record with 46 points — including eight 3-point field goals — while hitting 10-of-11 foul shots. 34 of Fraulini’s 46 came in the second half and, most importantly, the Trojans got a win.
Earlier in the season, Waverly dropped a 75-65 overtime decision to South Webster. Friday, the Tigers got their revenge in a 67-65 win, one where freshman Trey Robertson had a game-high 26 points thanks, in part, to seven 3-point field goals. Remember Roberton’s name. You’ll be hearing about him a lot over the next four years.
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO
On the girls side, a big-time non-conference matchup takes place in Minford Monday evening as the Falcons play host to Division II Miami Trace. That same night, Ironton goes to Wheelersburg and, let’s face it, we’d watch the Tigers and Pirates play tiddlywinks for entertainment.
Thursday, it’s back to SOC action before Clay hosts Chillicothe Huntington and Notre Dame travels to Huntington (W. Va.) on Saturday afternoon.
As for the boys, Jackson travels to Wheelersburg Tuesday in an intriguing matchup, Green heads to South Webster the same night before hosting Eastern Friday as the Pirates host Oak Hill later in the week, in a game that has SOC title implications written all over it.
AREA TOP FIVE
1. Wheelersburg (11-0), 2. Eastern (11-1), 3. Western (11-2), 4. Portsmouth (6-5), 5. Green (8-5)
1. Notre Dame (12-0), 2. Wheelersburg (10-3), 3. Minford (10-2), 4. South Webster (6-9), 5. Valley (7-7)
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @dw1509.