By DAVE MORRISON
ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket
Given foresight, the litany of things that went wrong for Westside Friday in its opener at PikeView, coach Shawn Jenkins probably would have been thinking he wouldn’t walk out later that night with a victory.
What happened, in a 66-64 victory, seemed unrealistic.
It started bad, behind 10-1 to open the game, and got worse.
By the end of the quarter it was 18-8. By the half it was 31-21.
PikeView’s outstanding senior Seth Meadows had 18 points at the break, including 12 for 12 at the free throw line. His own returning leading scorer, son Shane Jenkins didn’t score, and sat out the last three minutes of the half.
It got worse in the second half. Three straight turnovers led to a 14-point deficit and to Jenkins taking out his entire starting five.
Slowly, things changed.
Blessed with more depth, Westside started wearing down the Panthers, came back and, remarkably, got the game to overtime, despite being behind by 7 with 3:16 remaining.
The stars were sophomore R.J. Hood, who had nine points, all in the fourth quarter and overtime. Isaiah Lester, who led the team with 17 points. And big man Corey Hatfield who had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“It’s not easy to come down here and get a victory,” Jenkins said. “It’s a hard place to win. I think our depth had a lot to do with it. I am extremely happy to be walking out of here with a win tonight, I’ll tell you that.”
The depth was in fact a key, Westside’s bench outscoring PikeView’s 17-0.
It was a quality win between two schools which had not traditionally played each other in the regular season. They weren’t strangers though, having meet three straight years between 2013-15 in the Region 3 co-finals, all at Westside.
If Westside is the No. 3 team in the state in Class AA, then PikeView, which was right outside the top 10, showed it is in the ballpark. Both will be major players in the postseason.
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When you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Wyoming East’s defending state championship team, it did on a weekend sojourn to Kentucky.
The Warriors were already without returning all-state guard Gabby Lupardus, likely out for the year with a knee injury.
Wyoming East faced Boyd County and East Carter, and losing both games wasn’t the worst thing that happened.
Against Boyd, starting guard Misa Quesenberry was undercut late in the third quarter and missed the rest of that game and all of Saturday’s game against East Carter.
In the game with East Carter, Emily Saunders, who was averaging a double-double, turned an ankle and missed the fourth quarter of a game that the Warriors lost 63-62.
You have to go back to the 2013-14 season to find the last time Wyoming East lost two games in a row.
Nobody is going to cry for a defending state champion, especially one blessed with the talent that Wyoming East has. It’s ability to play with the caliber of teams the Wyoming East is facing is proof of that depth. Jazz Blankenship has stepped up, 17.3 ppg with 13 3 pointers.
The Warriors will get elements back and make a run at defending the title.
But I still can’t recall a team losing three starters in three straight games.
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Given the size difference between Greenbrier East and Richwood, nobody expected the Lumberjacks to make a run at knocking off the Spartans over the weekend.
They didn’t, falling 108-61.
The Spartans had some amazing numbers in that contest.
East hit 17 3 pointers in the game, nearly half of their 35 field goals. East had six players in double figures, led by Nathaniel Patton’s 26 points. Last season for the Spartans Patton had 30 points all season. He has 46 points in two games this season.
The Spartans have 27 3s in two games, that is 38.6 percent of their field goals. Doesn’t matter if your shooting in the driveway, that’s good shooting.
Recall, Greenbrier East coach and Governor-elect Jim Justice helped the Lumberjacks rebuild the gym after the devastating flooding of the summer.
Richwood was buoyed by the addition of Shane Lipps, a senior who had 27 points in the game. He didn’t play last season, taking time off to concentrate on football. He is a big addition, or, re-addition.
- Princeton’s Cade Fix is stepping in to fill the void left by the graduation of his brother, Colton Fix. Last season, Fix, in a backup role, scored 21 points. In a 52-40 victory over Spring Mills Friday at the Musselman Mixer, Fix had 22 points and is averaging 19 points in two games.
- Westside’s girls are off to a 3-0 start, and they’re getting the play you expect from senior-leader Morgan Thomas, who is averaging 15 points per game and already has one triple-double to her credit. But Jamie Lusk’s team is also getting good play from its freshman class. Hannah Toler leads the team in scoring at 16.3 ppg and Rianna Kenneda averages 11.0 Add the production of Makayla Morgan (7.7) and Leslie Bailey (1.5) and you have a freshman quartet averaging 51.9 percent of the team’s 70.3 points per game.
- Meadow Bridge’s Jared Gladwell averaged 10 ppg over the last four games last year as a freshman. He’s picked up where he left off, scoring 17 points in a victory Saturday over Harman.
- If the opening two games of the season are any indication, Greater Beckley Christian’s jay Moore has turned into one of the area’s most prolific scorers. He had a game-high 21 points in the opener against Shady Spring, a top-notch defensive unit and followed that up with 29 against Wood County Chritian Saturday. Coach Brian Helton credits his work ethic and the fact he has grown five inches since last season.
- Speaking of Shady Spring, the area’s returning leader in scoring, Jon Sawyers, is off to a quick start. He’s averaging 21 points and 13 rebounds per game for the 2-0 Tigers.
- Four of the five teams who have yet to play tip off Tuesday. Oak Hill hosts Bluefield, Fayetteville welcomes Valley, Midland Trail is at Greenbrier West and Mount View hosts Man. Woodrow Wilson doesn’t open until Dec. 20 at Ripley. I know the girls’ season starts a week before the boys, but by the time Woodrow opens Princeton’s girls will have played seven games, nearly 33 percent of its regular-season schedule.
- Senior twins Whittney and Brittney Justice of Summers County are two of the better scorers on any level, and they are off to quick starts this season. Brittney is averaging 23 and Whittney 21.7 for Summers, which is averaging 74 points per game. That’s nearly 50-percent of the team’s 272 points through three games. They are shooting a combined 79 percent at the free throw line (30 for 38).