WHEELERSBURG — Some players don’t score 100 points in their entire four-year careers … Tanner Holden has done so in two games this year.
Wheelersburg’s senior forward turned in his second 50-point performance of the season Tuesday night in an 83-64 win over Russell (Ky.) in non-conference play.
And he made it look easy while doing so.
“I think it started early. I kind of got going with a few buckets in the lane,” Holden said. “So just getting that early start with my teammates feeding me … all credit goes to them. It’s crazy but I think it’s amazing to do in front of your home fans. It’s just awesome to have everybody in my community sharing that moment with me.”
Holden finished the night with exactly 50 points on 20 field goals alongside 13 rebounds, three assists and four blocks. He was 9-of-14 from the line and scored 17 in the third quarter alone.
But possibly the most impressive part of his performance came on the offensive glass, where he consistently got second chance buckets to fall while keeping his team out in front.
“I think that’s huge, honestly. Before the season, coach [Steven Ater] and I talked and he made a big emphasis on me needing to get eight to 10 points in the paint,” Holden said. “I think just being active on the glass makes it hard for teams to box me out.”
While Holden’s night was certainly special, he was quick to acknowledge the things him and his teammates could still work on. Defense was at the forefront of that conversation.
“Coach was harping on that in the locker room and during our timeouts and everything,” Holden said. “Once we get that grit and get that toughness to really lock someone down, win our 1-on-1 battles, the sky’s the limit.”
Salyers lends a hand
With Russell’s defense focused on Mr. Holden, senior Trent Salyers often saw open looks beyond the 3-point arc … which he often took advantage of.
Salyers hit a total of six 3-point field goals, five of which came in the first half, for a total of 18 points.
“We were inside-out on a lot of those [3-point field goals]. So a lot of those shots came in rhythm,” Ater said. “He’s such a good shooter and everybody knows that. Give our guys credit for a couple of things. They didn’t care if Tanner catches the ball and gets his points but they also know that Tanner will throw the ball around and get other guys their looks, too.”
Coming into Tuesday’s contest, Wheelersburg (14-0) was the Associated Press’ No. 2 ranked team in the state within Division III. While that’s not something Ater and his players have focused on, it’s definitely something they’ve acknowledged.
“It’s just a number and a number we’re proud of because it’s recognition across the state of the work these guys are doing,” Ater said. “But all it does … it’s extra motivation for every other team you play. So we’ve talked about that kind of thing. Everyone we’re playing right now, we’re getting their best shot. Everybody wants to give you that first loss.”
Following Holden’s magnificent night, Salyers ended the night with 18 points on six 3-point field goals alongside four rebounds. Michael Miller added five rebounds, and Connor Mullins had two points, three boards and two assists.
The Red Devils (6-10) were led by Tristan Miller’s 24 points and four rebounds while Charlie Jachimcuzk finished with 19 points. Jared Goodman also chipped in, scoring 11 points and tallying three assists.
What’s on tap
The Pirates will try and stay undefeated Friday night, and near the top of the Division III AP rankings, when they travel to Northwest.
“I think we feel like we’re comfortable right now and you want to guard against plateauing,” Ater said. “Somewhere down the line, our first loss is waiting on us unless we focus and get better. We have to continually get better and have that mentality. If we’re comfortable, we could get beat and it could be Friday, or any day.”
Russell: 13-17-18-16 — 64
Wheelersburg: 18-20-25-20 — 83
Russell: 22-48 FG, 13-18 FT, 7-19 3pt. (Miller 6), 21 rebounds (Cantrell 5), 14 turnovers, 5 assists (Goodman 3). Scoring: Miller 24, Jachimcuzk 19, Goodman 11, Bell 7, Wheeler 2, Cantrell 1.
Wheelersburg: 32-55 FG, 11-16 FT, 8-21 3pt. (T. Salyers 6), 31 rebounds (Holden 13), 14 turnovers, 8 assists (Holden 3). Scoring: Holden 50, T. Salyers 18, Darnell 3, Mullins 2, J. Salyers 2, Clevenger 2.
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @dw1509.