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Girls basketball: Nitro finds stability to its liking

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Something strange will happen for Nitro seniors Halie Miller and Bethany Hill when they step on the basketball court Dec. 3 at Poca.  

That will be the first time in their high school career that the same coach will have transitioned to the next season with them. Since Scott Tinsley left in 2008, four different coaches have headed up the girls basketball program at Nitro.  

The turmoil of the turnover produced consecutive three-win seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.  

In his first season at Nitro, Will Samuel doubled the number of wins from those two seasons combined and led the Wildcats to a 12-12 record.

"The girls were shocked by it at first," Samuel said. "When we surpassed those three wins, we just kept building and confidence kept going. It was a pretty good year."

Now the Nitro girls' basketball team takes that momentum into Samuel's second season.  

"The difference this year is confidence," Samuel said. "It's basically a change of mind set not skill set. We know we are pretty good this year and that confidence goes a long way."

Nitro added to its growing confidence last week when it faced state runner-up Logan in a scrimmage.

"I was extremely surprised with how we played at Logan," junior Savannah Shamblin said. "We played really well."

Samuel is looking forward to a season where his Wildcats aren't the underdogs all the time.

"We are not a pushover this year," he said. "This year our girls have bought into winning."

That confidence is anchored by a veteran starting five that consists of two seniors and three juniors.  

At the heart of Nitro's offense is Shamblin, a 5-foot-3 point guard.

The junior averaged 19 points per game last season and is the floor general.

"She is one of the smartest competitive players I've been around." Samuel said.  

Shamblin noted the team is "working hard in practice" and Samuel has the team focused on improving its weaknesses this year.  

"Last year we had no idea what to expect, how teams were going to play us, how we were going to play them," Samuel said.

That experience has Samuel working on protecting the ball by eliminating turnovers and boxing out to be in better position for rebounds.  

Junior Tiffany Reavis, a transfer from Capital, will anchor the squad in the frontcourt and provide some much-needed help on the glass.

Senior Halie Miller will provide a wealth of experience for the frontcourt.

The only other senior, Bethany Hill, will play shooting guard and hold down the backcourt with Shamblin.

Freshman Bethany Linville is the shooting guard the Wildcats were missing last year and will come off the bench to provide scoring power against zone defenses.

Junior Katee Jones will also see quality playing time at the shooting guard position.  

Junior forward Hannah Linville rounds out the starters.  

Lexi Arnold, Haleigh Mace, Jaci Newcomers and Emma Lee Hinkley will come off the bench.

The stability of a consistent coach is part of the confidence for the Wildcats.

"The key difference this year is that we don't have to start over," Samuel said.

In fact, Samuel has provided stability to this Nitro team even before they were in high school.

Samuel was the assistant coach at Andrew Jackson Middle School when Shamblin, Jones, Arnold and Newcomers were learning the fundamentals. Now that investment is paying off.

"I feel it's going to be a great year," Shamblin said. "The best year yet."


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