At Manchester High School, it was the turn of the boys’ basketball squads of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference to take the hardwood on Nov. 20 for the annual Boys Preview Night. A capacity crowd got the opportunity to see the 10 teams from the conference in action in the traditional two-quarters of action, simulating game conditions.
The first Adams County team to take the court was the North Adams Green Devils, led once again by head coach Nathan Copas. Even coming off a losing season, this year holds high expectations for the Devils and they matched up on Preview Night with another team expected to compete in the SHAC, the always tough Eastern Warriors.
When you face off with a Rob Beucler coached Eastern team, you can expect a very disciplined offense and a very stingy defense and that was the case on Friday night as the Devils struggled to score early, getting just an offensive rebound and putback from Cole Meade in the first three minutes. The Warriors had just as hard a time finding the bottom of the net until a three-point play by Austin Doss gave them a 10-6 advantage. Eastern got a late first quarter bucket from Mana Stivers to lead 12-6 after the first eight minutes of action.
North Adams struck first early in the second period on a Mikey Sheeley three from the win and later added an old-fashioned three-point play from Trey Meade to draw within 14-12. As the shooting heated up, Eastern got a trey from Nick Kelch and another from Garyn Purdy to go back up 20-14. North Adams got a pair of Trey Meade free throws and a three from point guard Isaiah Anderson for a quick 5-0 run to pull within one but the final two baskets went to the Warriors who won the two quarters of play 24-19.
“We have another week and a half to focus and watch some tape from last year so we will change things up a little bit,” Coach Copas told C103 Radio after the preview half. “We’re just trying to get back in the groove. We have a better balance on offense and hopefully we stay healthy.”
“The Meade boys put a lot of time in this summer to get better and I would like to see our team have some high intensity energy from start to finish. I thought we kind of came out a little flat tonight, but if we can just get more consistent, we will be OK.”
Anderson and Trey Meade led the Green Devils with 7 points each in the preview, with Eastern being led by 6 points from Nick Kelch.
Fans who crowded the gym at Manchester on Friday night got an unexpected treat when the next Adams County team took the floor. The new-look West Union Dragons, under the direction of new head coach Josh White, took the court to battle the Whiteoak Wildcats, two teams picked by the SHAC coaches to finish at the bottom of the pack in their pre-season poll. No one sent that memo to the Dragons or Cats as the two teams put on a two-quarter show that may go down as one of the most exciting preview halves in recent history, with a break neck pace and unrelenting full court pressure both ways.
Two teams fairly evenly matched went at it toe to toe for 16 minutes, with the Dragons taking an early lead on the strength of a three-pointer by Garrett Vogler and four free throws off the bench by Elijah McCarty. McCarty turned out to be an offensive start off the bench, tallying 13 points in the two periods.
A pair of buckets from McCarty kept the Dragons in front at 11-7and another Vogler trey and a late free throw by J.J. Kramer saw the first quarter end with West Union up 15-13.
A bucket on the first possession of the second stanza by D.J Welch stretched the lead back to four and after Whiteoak’s Trevor Yeager scored a three-point play, West Union’s James Curtis answered with a three from the corner. Back came the Wildcats, getting back to back threes from Chase Carraher to take the lead at 24-20. Down 26-22, the Dragons dialed long distance again, as Vogler nailed a step back trey and the Whiteoak lead shrank to one.
The Cats went back up by four at 31-27 when Yeager hit a three, but the Dragons answered right back with a three of their own out of the corner by McCarty. A Welch basket gave West Union the lead with 38 seconds left in the half, but the Cats answered with a tip-in of his own miss by Brandon Ashbaugh to go up 33-32. An exciting finish awaited as West Union’s Craig Horton came down and nailed a trey to give the Dragons the preview “W” by the final count of 35-33.
“This was great,” said the dapper and exhausted Coach White after the two periods of play. “I’ve been pushing our boys as hard as I possibly can every day in practice, but Whiteoak still beat us down the floor six different times in the half. We lost nine seniors from last year which can be devastating to a basketball team so I have a varsity crew that really doesn’t have any varsity experience at all, but I have the best crew that anyone could ask for. They will do anything I ask of them and more.”
“With the tempo that we are going to play, we will have to go deep like we did tonight. We only have one senior so we are still going to be very young.”
Even in just two quarters of play, the Dragons placed two players in double figures, Elijah McCarty with 13 and Garrett Vogler with 11, as West Union also drained a half-dozen three-pointers in the two quarters. Whiteoak was led by 12 points from Trevor Yeager.
The final match up of the night brought two Adams County teams together, again two teams with a different look for this season, one on the court and one on the sidelines. Coach Josh Arey brought his two-time defending district champion Peebles Indians in to face the host Manchester Greyhounds, under the guidance of new head coach Kyle Pertuset. With the Hounds having a new face on the sidelines, the Indians are a new-look squad looking to replace the scoring punch they lost to graduation.
On this preview night, both teams struggle to find any offensive groove, which of course could be directly linked to both sides playing some superb defense. Manchester’s Sean Frost got the scoring underway with a three from the corner and then the Indians took the lead on a bucket inside by Dillon Evans and two Tyler Ryan free throws with 5:33 to play in the first quarter, but those were the final Peebles points of the first eight minutes.
The Greyhounds finished the first period on an 8-0 run, getting a steal and lay-in from Frost and then three-point goals from Cole Pribble and Kaulen Cox to lead 11-4 at the first break.
The Indians bounced back and began the second frame with a three from the top of the key from Tanner Arey and a bucket by Scout Kremin on their first two possessions to make it 11-9. Colton Thornburg nailed a trey for the Hounds and another Frost basket gave Manchester a 16-11 advantage. Peebles rallied, getting a steal and layup from Jase Conley, a free throw from Camron Gordley, and a stick back by Evans to tie the score at 16 with 2:25 left in the half. There would be one more basket in the half as Frost swished a three from the top of the key with 55 ticks remaining and the half ended with the Greyhounds holding a 19-16 lead.
“I thought the Manchester kids played hard,” said Coach Arey in his post game radio interview. “Some of their kids have a year of maturity under them and I think they will have a great season. We’ve obviously had some changes from last year and we’re still getting used to things but it’s a long season and we will progress as the season goes along.”
“In our scrimmages so far, our kids have really stepped up and filled that offensive void and I’m confident they will continue to do that. We got a little too excited tonight in that first quarter, but moving forward we should be in pretty good shape. We don’t have that dominant scorer this year but that’s OK, so far we’ve done a pretty good job on offense. Our program is definitely no stranger to losi
ng great players.”
Manchester head coach Pertuset was pleased with his team’s performance, albeit in just two quarters of play.
“This preview is great for fans to come and see what the conference is going to look like and for us coaches, it is a good gauge of what kind of players were out there,” said Pertuset. “We have a few issues that we have to deal with but you are always thrilled as a coach when you get an early lead and it gets chipped away and your kids have the mental toughness to still come away with a win.”
“Tonight was a good way to start for us, but we know it’s just a preview and we have some work to do. After tonight, we will probably be circled on the Peebles calendar so we just have to continue to get better and not be satisfied.”
Sean Frost led the Hounds in the preview with 7 points, followed closely by Colton Thornburg with 6. Scout Kremin and Dillon Evans led Peebles with 4 apiece.
All four county boys teams now look ahead to the beginning of the regular season. Tuesday, Dec. 1 will be a big opening night as North Adams will play host to Peebles in a non-conference to begin the season. West Union opens that same night, hosting Bethel-Tate, while Manchester is at home on Dec. 1 facing a tough Lucasville Valley squad.