W.Va. teams look to improve in 2012-13 campaign
HUNTINGTON -- In the Cabell-Wayne area, just about everyone is looking to improve as the boys basketball season gets under way.
Huntington High finished 13-12 last season and had to fight hard to get to that mark after a 3-7 start. Meanwhile, Spring Valley finished 7-16 and Cabell Midland was 5-16.
Still, Highlanders coach Ron Hess said his expectations are as high as ever for the 2012-13 season.
"Our main goal, our focus, is always to win a state championship," Hess said. "We have a good bit of talent, and a lot of speed."
Huntington High senior point guard Nathan DeMoss and two guard Shaquan Miller return to provide veteran leadership for the team, while Hess will be sorting out the depth chart in the early part of the season.
"(DeMoss) is one of our captains, and you want your captains to be an extension of the coach," Hess said. "That's what he is out on the floor."
This season's Highlanders squad doesn't pack much size, but comes with a lot of athleticism, and more than a few good shooters.
"We have the talent and the depth to run up-tempo, and that's something we're going to look to take advantage of," Hess said.
The coach said he thinks his team has a "good blend" of talent, with four seniors and a few juniors to help develop the team's freshmen and sophomores.
"Last year, we were fighting an uphill battle just to get to .500," Hess said. "This team is definitely near where we need to be. We're still kind of young, but you want to continue to improve as the season goes along.
"At the end of the year, that's when you want to be playing your best basketball."
Dec. 5, at Cabell Midland; Dec. 10, at Capital; Dec. 14, at Woodrow Wilson; Dec. 18, Parkersburg; Dec. 20, at Logan.
Jan. 4, Ripley; Jan. 8, at Princeton; Jan. 10, George Washington; Jan. 12, Capital; Jan. 16, at Riverside; Jan. 18, at Winfield; Jan. 22, South Charleston; Jan. 24, at Nitro; Jan. 29, Ironton; Jan. 30, Spring Valley.
Feb. 1, Cabell Midland; Feb. 2, at Tolsia; Feb. 5, at St. Albans; Feb. 7, at Hurricane; Feb. 16, MSAC Night of Champions; Feb. 19, Tug Valley; Feb. 21, St. Albans.
CABELL MIDLAND: Cabell Midland has struggled much over the past two seasons, and last year's 5-16 finish was not what head coach Matt Stead was hoping for out of the Knights.
But there was a silver lining.
"Last year was certainly a groundwork season," Stead said. "We have every single person coming back who finished with the team last year."
Stead said he doesn't plan to change the Knights' scheme much, but just expects his kids to execute better.
"Last year we had a lot of freshmen who certainly needed the experience," Stead said. "I walked in the first day of practice this season and they knew everything they were supposed to do. It's not adding anything, it's eliminating the mental mistakes that got us beat."
Midland also has an ace in the hole that no one in Class AAA, Section 2 has, and that's size.
Stead will start three guards and two forwards, all in the 6-foot-2 to 6-5 range, and plans to get the ball low on offense.
"We're going to pound the paint, or kick it back outside to our shooters," he said. "We have plenty of size, and we even have size in rotation off the bench. It's a luxury we have that a lot of other teams don't, and we have to use that to our advantage. That's the way we have to play to win."
While most other teams are looking to crank up the tempo, Midland is honing their well-known match up zone on the defensive side of things.
"That's been a Midland staple over the years," Stead said. "We're not as athletic as some of the other teams, so we have to try and slow things down some. We will throw in some man and some pressure here and there to mix things up, though."
Overall, Stead wants to re-establish Cabell Midland as a force to be reckoned with in Class AAA hoops.
"We have to get back to playing Knights basketball," he said. "This is a program that has won a state title, and we have to get back to that level. The kids know that and they know they have to raise their level of play to get there."
Dec. 5, Huntington High; Dec. 11, at Spring Valley; Dec. 14, at Parkersburg; Dec. 20, at Ripley; Dec. 22, at Point Pleasant; Dec. 29, at St. Albans.
Jan. 2, at Lincoln County; Jan. 4, Princeton; Jan. 8, at George Washington; Jan. 10, Riverside; Jan. 12, Woodrow Wilson; Jan. 16, at Capital; Jan. 18, at Nitro; Jan. 22, Winfield; Jan. 30, South Charleston.
Feb. 1, at Huntington High; Feb. 5, Hurricane; Feb. 7, St. Albans; Feb. 9, Point Pleasant; Feb. 12, Spring Valley; Feb. 15, MSAC tourney; Feb. 19, at Hurricane.
SPRING VALLEY: The Timberwolves lost four seniors from last year's team, and return only one starter.
But with the lumps taken last season, the team's younger players got some valuable experience, and Spring Valley will be starting three sophomores this season.
Coach Cory Maynard said depth is something of a concern, especially since he plans on developing a tight man-to-man defense to slow opponents down.
"We've worked extremely hard on our man defense," he said. "We'll play some zone maybe if we feel like it's going to give us a better chance to win, but we have to be more consistent with our man defense and never relax.
"We just have to be better defensively," the coach continued. "We have to keep people out of the lanes and stop the dribble penetration."
Offensively, the Timberwolves will mostly feature a motion look.
"We've got some kids who might be able to get out front in transition," Maynard said. "But in the half court we'll be running our sets and try to get good looks at the basket out of that."
Maynard said the primary goal of the team is to finish with a winning season, after two straight on the wrong side of the ledger.
"We've struggled, and hopefully this year we get back on track with a winning season at Spring Valley," he said. "These are team players. They aren't selfish, they like each other and they share the ball.
"We're starting three sophomores and three juniors, so we're throwing them right into the mix. It's great for the future, but we've got potential now. We just have to bring it along."
Dec. 7, at Lincoln County; Dec. 11, Cabell Midland; Dec. 14, at George Washington; Dec. 18, Riverside; Dec. 20, at Capital.
Jan. 4, Woodrow Wilson; Jan. 8, at Parkersburg; Jan. 10, Ashland; Jan. 12, Princeton; Jan. 16, at Ripley; Jan. 18, St. Albans; Jan. 22, at Hurricane; Jan. 24-26, SJI at Big Sandy Superstore Arena; Jan. 30, at Huntington High.
Feb. 1, at South Charleston; Feb. 5, Winfield; Feb. 7, Nitro; Feb. 9, at Ironton; Feb. 12, at Cabell Midland; Feb. 21, Hurricane.
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE: The Irish enter 2012 off the heels of a fairly successful 2011 season, when they finished 18-7, and nearly made it to state, falling to Man in the Regional Final.
St. Joe returns without their leading scorer, Josh Pierson, who graduated in the spring.
But the Irish do have Michael Mays, who averaged 15 points a game last season, back, along with seniors Lakin Brooks and Paul Dransfeld.
The Irish also return senior Brian Conaty, who missed last season with a shoulder injury.
"We start Tuesday (at Chesapeake)," head coach Ross Scaggs said. "I know who my top seven are, but I'm not sure who my top five are.
"We're just like everybody else, we haven't played together yet. How we'll come together, we'll have to see."
Also "just like everybody else," the Irish don't have a lot of size on their team.
Scaggs, like many other coaches, believes the remedy for that is to crank up the tempo as fast as it can go.
"That's something we believe in -- push the tempo and try to quicken the game," he said. "We want to try and create some easy baskets for ourselves and then press on defense. We're very aggressive defensively."
Scaggs said the Irish will have to team rebound, without one big man to occupy the glass.
The coach said he's encouraged by the number of kids who have come out to play this year, and hopes that will lead to finding some diamonds in the rough.
"That's always good to have. It's hard to tell if they'll contribute or not, but I'm looking forward to it," Scaggs said. "They're all good kids, and great kids to coach."
Dec. 4, at Chesapeake; Dec. 7, at Fairland; Dec. 13, Tug Valley; Dec. 14, at Man; Dec. 20, Teays Valley Christian; Dec. 22, at Buffalo; Dec. 28, at Federal Hocking (Ohio); Dec. 29, Greater Beckley Christian.
Jan. 2, at South Point; Jan. 4, Man; Jan. 8, Buffalo; Jan. 10, at Teays Valley Christian; Jan. 15, at Charleston Catholic; Jan. 19, Williamson Shootout; Jan. 24-26, SJI at Big Sandy Superstore Arena; Jan. 29, at Tug Valley.
Feb. 4, at Parkersburg Catholic; Feb. 8, Mountain Mission (Va.); Feb. 9, Oak Hill (Ohio); Feb. 19, Wahama; Feb. 21, at Mount Mission.
WAYNE: The Wayne Pioneers have won back-to-back Class AA state titles. In football.
Wayne's success on the gridiron has overshadowed the school's basketball team in recent years, though boys' coach Sam Cochenour said he "wouldn't have it any other way."
Wayne's season tips off a week later than most everyone else, and that's simply because Cochenour won't know who he has on his team until Monday, the first practice since the football team wrapped its season up Friday night.
"Four of my five starters play football," Cochenour said. "Right now I have eight to 10 players, and four didn't play last year."
But Cochenour wants it to be clear that there are no sour grapes on his part.
"It's just the way it is," he said. "Some guys come in as basketball players, and then they hit the weight room and concentrate on getting bigger and stronger because they want to play football.
"I'm very pleased the football team is winning," he added. "It does hurt basketball, and I just happen to be the coach."
Wayne was 7-15 last year.
This season, Cochenour said the players he knows he does have are looking better.
"We try to play a lot of man, and run set plays with continuity," he said "We try to score through our defense as much as we can."
The Pioneers have one returning starter in senior point guard James Egnor.
"He's the leader of the team," Cochenour said.
The coach is also hoping to return Grant Ferguson, the quarterback of the undefeated state champion football team.
"He made second-team all conference last year," Cochenour said.
The competition in the Cardinal conference is fairly stiff, but Cochenour wants the Pioneers to be competitive.
"Of the eight teams that go to state, usually three are from our conference," he said.
Dec. 11, Ohio Valley Christian; Dec. 14, Hannan; Dec. 18, Scott; Dec. 21, at Sissonville; Dec. 22, TBA; Dec. 29, at Herbert Hoover.
Jan. 8, Poca; Jan. 10, at Grace Christian; Jan. 12, Mingo Central; Jan. 15, at Tolsia; Jan. 18, at Chapmanville; Jan. 21, Grace Christian; Jan. 23-25, SJI at Big Sandy Superstore Arena; Jan. 26, at Hannan; Han. 29, Sissonville.
Feb. 1, Tolsia; Feb. 2, Mingo Central; Feb. 8, Herbert Hoover; Feb. 12, at Scott; Feb. 15, Chapmanville; Feb. 21, at Poca.