Boys basketball: Depth playing key role in nine-game winning streak for Poca
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The graduation of a four-year starter and the resulting reliance on a sophomore as team leader is rarely a concoction for a successful basketball season, but Poca is doing just fine.
"We've been blessed. The Good Lord's blessed us. We've been fortunate to have a lot of things go our way so far this year," Dots Coach Allen Osborne said last week after Poca (11-1) edged visiting Nicholas County (6-6).
Poca enters the week ranked second in the Associated Press Class AA poll, and has won nine games in a row, its longest winning streak in two years. The Dots won their first 15 games in 2010-11 and finished 24-4 by losing in the State Tournament's semifinals to Scott.
They were 13-12 last year, led by 2009 Kanawha Valley Freshman of the Year Clinton Parsons, a center who had started his entire prep career and led the Dots in scoring as a senior. Waiting in the wings was then-freshman Noah Frampton, a two-sport standout - he also excels in baseball - who has been pivotal to the Dots' hot start.
Frampton's buzzer-beater against Scott on Jan. 11 beat the then-top ranked Skyhawks 40-39, and sent Poca's Cardinal Conference rival into a tailspin that only ended after they had lost four consecutive games.
But while Frampton has led the team in scoring, it is the uncommon depth of the team that has perhaps figured most heavily in its strong start.
Junior forward Jacob Payne, the Dots' quarterback in football season, said practice sessions have been more intense this season, Osborne's first since retiring as a teacher at the school.
"We practice five-on-five, and you don't get any breaks," Payne said. "When you're in practice it's not like 'You're the starters and they're the bench players.' It's all the same. It doesn't matter who you are.
"We go hard. We have to."
Payne's reference that they "have" to practice hard is a reflection of the Dots' actual roster depth. Poca has just 13 players on its overall rosters. That number includes three freshmen.
"They just go out there, play hard, show a lot of guts and find a way to win," Osborne said.
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RIVERSIDE'S STRONG start to Coach Dusty Herscher's second season has evaporated in a string of recent losses. The Warriors began the year with wins in four of their first five games, but lost Saturday to Class A No. 3 Tug Valley (9-2) in the Hatfield/McCoy Shootout in Williamson.
The setback was Riverside's seventh in its last nine games. The Warriors are 6-9 entering a week in which they play at George Washington (9-3) on Tuesday and make a road trip to Princeton (10-3) on Friday.
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WHILE HURRICANE made its poll debut last week, appearing at No. 10 in the AP Class AAA rankings, the Redskins (9-4) were unable to shake a trend that has followed them the entire season.
Consecutive losses to George Washington and Class AAA No. 2 South Charleston (10-1) made the Redskins 2-4 against teams with non-losing records. Coach Lance Sutherland's team stopped its losing streak with a win over Class AA-equivalent Belfry (Ky.) in the Hatfield/McCoy Shootout. The Pirates are 7-6.
Hurricane has also lost games to Beckley (6-4) and Winfield (6-6). Its only other win against a team above the .500 mark came on Jan. 10, when the Redskins beat Princeton 59-56.
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MORGANTOWN HANDED top-ranked Martinsburg (11-1) its first loss of the season Friday night, getting 23 points from Nathan Adrian to top the Bulldogs 65-59 in Morgantown.
Adrian, a 6-foot-9 senior center, committed to West Virginia prior to his junior season. The win avenged a 55-39 Morgantown loss to Martinsburg that took place in the Bulldogs' holiday tournament on Dec. 22. Martinsburg senior power forward Eugene German, who won the 2012 Hunt Award as the state's top lineman in football, did not play. He was on his official football visit to Charlotte over the weekend.
The Mohigans are 10-1, and were ranked fifth in last week's Associated Press Class AAA poll. After also completing a regular season sweep of No. 7 Parkersburg South (10-3) last week, Morgantown has emerged as a legitimate state championship contender.
Morgantown's last appearance in a basketball state championship game came in 1956, when the Mohigans lost to East Bank. Monongalia County schools have claimed just one state basketball championship in the 99-year history of the State Tournament, a Class A crown won in 1980 by St. Francis. That parochial school ceased to exist in 1990.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.