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Girls basketball: Samuels looks to bring stability to the Wildcats

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Another year and another new girls basketball coach at Nitro High School.

Since longtime coach Scott Tinsley stepped down in 2008, the Wildcats have gone through a list of coaches long enough that it takes the fingers on both hands to count them.

Meanwhile, last year's wins - three - can be counted on one.

Last year's team lost four players to injuries during the season and finished 3-20 under former highly successful Sissonville coach Annette Olenchick, who stepped down after just one season.

Will Samuels, a teacher, steps in and will try to bring stability to the program after coaching at South Charleston Middle School, where his team was Kanawha County runner-up the last two years.

"We are returning six players," Samuels said. "They're working hard and are really confident."

One reason for the bright outlook is the way last season ended up.

The Wildcats led most of their sectional game against St. Albans before a last second 3-pointer sent the contest to overtime with Nitro eventually losing 41-38.

Nitro had eight players available for that game and only six played before they ran out of gas. This season, the numbers are up and so is the health of the team members.

Leading the optimistic Wildcats is sophomore Savannah Shamblin, who led the team in scoring last season.

The 5-foot-3 point guard posted a strong rookie campaign averaging 11.3 points per game while handling the ball almost exclusively.

Senior Kelli Douglas, a starter the last three seasons, also returns. She and sophomore Hannah Linville will lend scoring help. Linville will also be called on to defend the top player on opposing teams.

Junior Halie Miller is the squad's main inside player and senior Melissa Belcher "will get a lot of minutes" this year.

Sophomore Poca transfer Haleigh Mace should also contribute off the bench.

There are only three seniors on the roster and the starting five will be composed of two sophomores, two juniors, and a senior.

"We have 15 girls out," Samuels said. "So, we will have a (junior varsity) team for the first time since the senior class arrived."

He thinks his squad can cause some matchup problems for opponents.

"I like our versatility," Samuels said. "We can get up and down the floor and we have some size."

Nitro hosts Poca at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in a mutual season opener.


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