SOUTH WEBSTER — Way back on Dec. 7, in an eventual overtime win at Waverly, South Webster’s Shiloah Blevins elevated for a rebound, fell awkwardly when returning to the floor and was slow to get up.
After being checked on by the team trainer, Blevins was escorted to the bench and didn’t return to the Jeeps’ lineup until Jan. 4. In effect, South Webster went 2-4 over its next six games while Blevins watched from the sidelines.
But, believe it or not, Blevins’ short-lived injury might’ve been the best possible thing that could’ve happened in the long run.
“With me being out with the injury, it helped the team improve on scoring, rebounding, and being able to handle a press,” Blevins said. “This was a major key for the team because now it makes us a stronger team and harder to defend. “
The lessons that Blevins’ teammates learned during their time without their leader are starting to pay dividends. The Jeeps ended the regular season at 12-10 overall with a 7-7 mark in the SOC II.
Now, as a No. 4 seed in the Division IV Southeast District Tournament, the Jeeps are looking towards a matchup with Reedsville Eastern in a sectional final at 8:30 p.m., Tuesday at Meigs.
Blevins said his team’s regular season slate has it prepared for a lengthy tournament run.
“Our season has been great. We’ve had lots of challenging teams we’ve had to play during the regular season to get us ready for our tournament run,” Blevins said. “I feel like we can make a deep tournament run if we keep playing the way we have been in practice these past couple of days.”
Blevins isn’t the only bright spot on the Jeeps’ roster.
South Webster brings multiple valid scoring options into the mix, including the likes of sophomore Tanner Voiers, junior Braden Bockway and senior Samuel Holstein.
The fact that the Jeeps can put points on the board is no secret. But what may be held under wraps is how much pride the team takes playing defense.
“We do have a lot of scoring options but I think the best trait of our team is our defensive ability,” Blevins said. “The guys and me have taken it personally to try and keep teams under 40. It’s fun being able to play with other talented guys because I love watching fellow teammates succeed and the energy they bring to the table.”
Blevins and his teammates would love nothing more than to hold Reedsville Eastern under 40 points. A win over the Eagles would mean a trip back to a district semifinal at Ohio University. A win at the district semifinal would mean a third consecutive chance to play for a district title.
In 2018, the Jeeps suffered a 61-39 loss to Dawson Bryant in the district final. In 2017, at the same level, South Webster fell to Clay by a 54-48 final.
“We return guys that have played in two district championship games and have fell short of that.” South Webster coach Brenton Cole said. “I know the guys have that in the back of their heads that they would really like to compete for a district and win.”
But that’s still just a future possibility. Cole said he’s got his guys focused on the now. The “now” is a No. 5 seeded Reedsville Eastern team. On any given night, anybody can beat anybody in the tournament. Cole is well aware and says he’ll have his troops ready for battle Tuesday night.
“With a long break before our first game, we have to stay focused,” Cole said. “I’m trying not to let them look any farther than the one game ahead of us.”