GLENHAYES — Before the Tolsia boys basketball team ran out of the locker room an onto the floor as they were introduced at “Meet the Rebels,” head coach Todd Maynard and the scoreboard operator joked with each other.
The punchline? A 64-59 loss to Williamstown in the Regional co-final at the end of last season.
“Should I put the score up there?,” the operator asked as he gestured toward the scoreboard.
Maynard opposed at first before circling back around, telling him to go ahead and set the numbers to reflect a short-coming that was anything but comical to the young men about to run out to a crowd of Tolsia basketball friends.
It didn’t take long before the players noticed and faces that were smiling and laughing a few moments earlier were replaced with disapproving head shakes and a few eye rolls.
“We want them to remember the way they felt at the end of last year,” said Maynard. “We had a successful year but we don’t want to forget we were only five points away from the state tournament because that gives them some motivation to finish the job this year.”
The Rebels return this season with a roster mainly intact from this past season, but lost one of their top scorers and overall leaders in Jacob Mollette, who graduated in May.
“When we graduated Mollette, we lost more than just a scorer. We lost our captain, leader, and the glue of our team. Somebody is going to have to become that sheep dog and fill that role,” Maynard said. “We’re going to obviously miss his ability to spread the floor and score the ball but we have some other guys that can make bucket, too.”
Those returning to the program include juniors Rob Cantrell, Austin Salmons, Tyler Johnson, Gavin Meadows and sophomore Jesse Muncy, who led the team in scoring last season.
Though the Rebels lost a total of three players to graduation last year, they return four primary starters, and Meadows who worked his way into the starting lineup late last year.
Maynard said he didn’t shy away from scheduling tough either, hoping that more challenges in the regular season will prolong Tolsia’s postseason success after coming within five points of an appearance in the West Virginia boys basketball state tournament last year.
“Our first seven games will be a difficult test. We’re setting them up to be ready to play in big games and face good teams at the end of the year by throwing some tough games at them early and seeing what happens,” Maynard said.
Tolsia opens the regular season Dec. 13 at home against Calvary Baptist High School and then will play their final three games of December on the road against Huntington St. Joe, Cross Lanes Christian, and a game in the Chapmanville Regional High School tournament before turning the calendar to 2020.