PORTSMOUTH — Today gave us what we’ve all been waiting for: tournament brackets. The area’s girls teams now know their first-round postseason fates while the boys will find out theirs next weekend.
While keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s Shootaround, ahead of another jam-packed week … one where the boys have one last shot at making an impression.
A. Wheelersburg’s girls are starting to hit their stride. That last sentence may confuse some. I can see the question being posed, “Haven’t they already done so?” The fact of the matter is that the Pirates have won games this year. But they’ve also had major areas to improve upon … take their 80-39 loss to Vinton County for example. But Saturday, in a 56-50 win over West Carter (Ky.), coach Dusty Spradlin’s team put together a complete effort. When Abbie and Ellie Kallner are both hitting, as well as Kaylee Darnell, Alaina Keeney and Karlie Estep, look out. It’s scary to say but I think Wheelersburg’s best basketball still hasn’t been put on full display yet.
B. I completely understand that Northwest’s boys record isn’t good. That’s just a fact. The Mohawks sit at 1-15 overall. However, there are positives within the program; one certainly being freshman guard Brayden Campbell … who put on one of the best defensive clinics I’ve seen in quite some time Tuesday evening. Campbell, guarding Huntington Ross’ Elijah McCloskey — a prolific scorer in the Scioto Valley Conference — was everywhere on the defensive side of the ball. He frustrated McCloskey all night long, holding him to seven points, and played hard for 32 consecutive minutes. Give credit where it’s due, and that’s to Campbell.
C. New Boston’s boys continue to get better each night out and you have to think that, in a tournament sense, nobody wants to deal with Kyle Sexton and Tyler Caldwell with their season on the line. The Tigers, at 13-4, relied on Sexton’s 22 points in Saturday’s 70-63 win over Ironton St. Joe. But what’s more telling is that New Boston scored 70 points in a game where Caldwell scored just four. As more scoring threats emerge, namely Marcus Saunders and Grady Jackson, the Tigers only get that much better. That can’t be welcome news to postseason foes.
Northwest coach Jason Smith on the aforementioned Campbell:
“He is an outstanding kid, just his attitude and his work ethic. No matter what I tell him, he says, ‘Yessir, whatever you need coach.’ He started out playing freshman ball, moved up to JV and now he’s starting varsity. He just kept working so hard and improving. He guards our opponents’ best player every night and I think he loves that challenge. Such a great leader and a great kid.”
Wheelersburg’s Steven Ater on Friday’s 69-46 win at Waverly:
“What a great team win. Our guys, we guarded tonight and that’s something we’ve been on them about. We can better at that. I thought tonight, we did a good job. Some of the things that have plagued us, offensive rebounding and some transition issues … they tried to take advantage of and weren’t able to do that. I thought our guys really cleaned up some of those areas that we’ve been working on.”
Notre Dame’s JD McKenzie on Saturday’s 34-27 loss to Division III state-ranked Waynesville:
“We need to be more physical, hold our box outs a little bit longer … just little things like that, that over time make a big difference in a game like that. Everybody is going to try and take Katie [Dettwiller] away and they did a good job of that. Defensively, that’s the best team we’ve played. Offensively, that’s the best team we’ve played. So it’s a learning experience. We have to look at the film and see what we did wrong.”
IMPACT PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Minford’s duo of Darius Jordan and Kelton Kelley are starting to turn heads. Kelley scored 34 points in two outings this week while Jordan continues to make the Falcons’ offense go. Since Jordan’s return to the lineup, Minford is 4-3. Without him, the Falcons are 2-8.
South Webster’s Shiloah Blevins scored his 1,000th career point this past Tuesday in an 81-43 win over Northwest. Blevins, who was injured earlier this season, is one of the best players in the area. With him healthy, the Jeeps are a dangerous team to watch in Division IV.
I know you already know this but I can’t stop raving about Notre Dame’s Ava Hassel. The sophomore point guard, pound for pound, is one of the best I’ve covered … ever. Hassel scored 11 points in Monday’s win over Oak Hill and nine in Saturday’s loss to Waynesville. But it’s the other things she does to make the Titans so much better. Grit, toughness and playing hard-nosed defense could all describe Hassel. We’re lucky to have her for two more years.
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO
Monday kicks off the final week of the regular season for area girls teams.
That day, Clay travels to Eastern in conference play while Minford goes to South Webster for an intriguing matchup. Thursday, the Jeeps travel to Wheelersburg for the Pirates’ final conference test while New Boston goes to Western.
On the boys side, Western visits Franklin Furnace on Friday for a tangle with the Bobcats, following the Bobcats road trip to New Boston on Tuesday, while South Webster makes the trip to Oak Hill. In non-conference play on Saturday, Greenup County (Ky.) pays Wheelersburg a visit.
AREA TOP FIVE
1. Wheelersburg (18-0), 2. Eastern (17-1), 3. Western (14-4), T4. Green (12-6), T4. New Boston (13-4)
1. Notre Dame (16-1), 2. Wheelersburg (15-4), 3. Minford (13-6), 4. Clay (13-6), 5. South Webster (8-11)
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @dw1509.