CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic boys basketball coach Bill McClanahan has seldom been more displeased with his team than he was after the Irish lost to Linsly at home on Jan. 4.
McClanahan publicly challenged his players to give more effort and to play less selfishly after the loss, and issued an ultimatum that if his starters would not comply with his request, he would find others on the roster who would.
Senior point guard Garret McCarty got the message, loud and clear.
"After Linsly we realized we needed to take things more seriously. We started off slow and we needed to get into better shape," McCarty said Sunday, two days after he scored 24 points in a 62-52 win over Class A No. 1 Greater Beckley Christian (8-2) to improve Catholic's record to 8-2.
"He made it apparent we needed to work harder," McCarty said.
In the last three weeks McCarty has rocketed up the list of Kanawha Valley scoring leaders, and is third behind George Washington's Jon Elmore and Hurricane's Henry Sorsaia on that list with an average of 21.9 points per game.
He has eclipsed the 30-point mark twice, scoring 31 in games against Gilmer County on Jan. 18 and against Buffalo on Jan. 21.
The fifth-ranked Irish are 4-1 since losing to Linsly, with a 65-60 loss at No. 3 Notre Dame in Clarksburg the only blemish in that stretch.
"We've gotten smarter, though we still have lots of room to improve," McClanahan said Sunday. "Our IQ is better, our chemistry is better and I think they're learning the value of competing."
McClanahan suggested that Catholic's run of success in the past decade might have helped create the situation from which the Irish are emerging. The Irish have played in eight of the last nine Class A state championship games, winning titles in 2006, '07 and 2012.
"We have to understand that we have to be able to compete at the highest level every night," McClanahan said. "We can't expect teams to see the name on our jerseys and lay down when they roll the ball out to start a game. We're getting people's best shot, so we have to give them ours.
"We're taking steps. The Greater Beckley Christian game was a good step, but we'll find out where we are by the end of this week," McClanahan said.
Catholic plays Class AA No. 4 Poca (8-1) at home on Tuesday then travels to the Northern Panhandle to face Class A No. 4 Wheeling Central on Friday and Bishop Donahue on Saturday.
McCarty entered Charleston Catholic in 2010 with high praise from McClanahan and quickly became one of Class A's top defenders, helping the Irish to a state championship as a sophomore in 2012. A bigger, stronger McCarty - he's now listed at 5-foot-10 - has committed to play at Division II Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and said that off-season work has helped turn him into a better all-around player.
"I started lifting as soon as last season ended, and I started eating better," he said. "I had a big summer in AAU playing in some big tournaments against good competition. Coach (McClanahan) taught me a lot in my sophomore and junior years and that's paying off."