’Wolves PG Kelly aiding SV surge
SPRING VALLEY — Over the last two years, Spring Valley’s girls basketball team has been near the top of the ranks in West Virginia’s Class AAA, advancing to the state semifinals last season while starting the 2013-14 campaign 17-3.
They’ve done so as only ’Wolves can — by working as a pack.
As with any pack, there is a leader who guides the team on the right path.
On the basketball court, that job is squarely on the shoulders of the point guard. For the Timberwolves, Sarah Kelly fits that role.
If you ask Spring Valley coach Bo Miller, he thinks he has one of the top dogs in the state in Kelly.
Miller already has one Division I commit in post player Madison Morris, who committed to Marshall in the summer of 2013 and set the school’s all-time scoring record in Saturday’s win over St. Albans.
However, he feels that Kelly is a second Division I prospect on his team due to the variety of things she brings to the game.
“She just does so many things for us,” Miller said. “She gets us in our offensive sets, leads our defense, distributes the basketball and rebounds well. In my opinion, she’s the top player in the state in her class (Class of 2015) that isn’t committed to a school yet.”
Kelly said that while she is looking into the future with hopes of being a Division I basketball player, her bigger focus is on a Class AAA title — something the Timberwolves came close to achieving last season.
Spring Valley advanced to the Class AAA semifinals before falling to Logan, 52-49, on a late 3-pointer.
That game has served as a bit of motivation for Kelly and the Timberwolves as they prepare for the stretch run and look forward to another postseason at the end of February.
“It’s always a reminder that we have to come to play every single night,” Kelly said. “There are days where we practice with the score from Logan on the scoreboard and that motivates us.”
Losses have been few and far between for the Timberwolves in the last two years. Since starting the 2012-13 season 0-2, Spring Valley has won 40 of 45 games heading into this Wednesday’s contest with Nitro.
Of the five losses, two came to Huntington High with the Highlanders ranked in the top five, one was the loss to Logan in the Class AAA state semis, one was to Class A Huntington St. Joe and the other to Ohio Division III power Fairland.
“We know if we come to play our game, we can play with anyone,” Kelly said.
To see that level of success, a team must attain consistency on both ends of the court and Kelly is working to achieve that from her point guard spot.
This season, Kelly is averaging 12.7 points, 9.6 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 steals per game for the Timberwolves, who are currently No. 3 in West Virginia.
The fifth variable for Kelly would be the leadership aspect — one that has shown itself recently in big games.
On Feb. 3, Spring Valley went on the road to rival Huntington High — which beat the Timberwolves earlier this season — and exacted a little revenge with a 78-70 win.
Kelly went to the bench early in the second quarter with her second foul and the Highlanders went on an 11-0 run to take the lead and force Miller to put her back in.
Spring Valley went on a 19-8 run to end the half and ended up stretching its lead to double-figures before hanging on. Kelly finished with 24 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in the win.
“We’re a different team when she’s not on the floor,” Miller said.
Kelly proved on Saturday night against St. Albans, though, that it’s not always about scoring for success as a point guard.
The Timberwolves were forced to slow down their pace due to the defensive work put in by the Red Dragons, but the hustle plays went the way of Spring Valley in the 49-40 win.
Kelly had an off-night shooting and finished with just seven points, but she made up for it in different areas, leading the team in rebounds (11), assists (6) and steals (5).
According to Kelly, the motivating factor for her to work hard each game is simple — how much she cares about her teammates.
“We’re all best friends,” Kelly said. “We’re around each other all the time and we love that.”
This season’s weather patterns have kept some teams out of the gym for days and even weeks at a time, but Kelly said that was an important time for her teammates to grow closer as they all stayed together during the snowstorms.
She said the off-court chemistry of the group pays big dividends on the court as well.
“It’s just a big slumber party all the time,” Kelly said. “Where we’re all good friends, we’re all just really relaxed and we all know how each other plays, so we can just go out and have fun.”
Over the next two weeks, the fun will turn to a more competitive side as the ’Wolves set their sights on the postseason and a Class AAA Championship, which will not be easy considering Spring Valley is one of four teams in its section in Class AAA’s top 10 in girls basketball.
As Miller put it, with Kelly at the helm, Spring Valley is certainly in the hunt.
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