Valley Already Chasing SHS

Halfway Done, Blazers Still Perfect

Posted: January 2, 2013

HARRISONBURG – As high school basketball competition ratcheted up in late December, Spotswood stayed hot while Waynesboro fizzled.

With 11 games left after the holiday break, the still-unbeaten Trailblazer boys (11-0 overall, 2-0 in the Valley District) have upheld their status as the district’s preseason favorites and then some.

They’re deep and experienced, returning everyone from last season with five seniors. Add to that Spotswood’s ability to close out several one-possession games in the second half, especially tight contests in the fourth quarter.

“I’d say that’s a bad combination for the rest of us,” Broadway coach Dwight Walton said.

A sudden skid for Waynesboro, which started 7-0, has the Blazers sitting pretty. But if Spotswood has made a single New Year’s resolution as a team, it’s this: Don’t take any night in the Valley District for granted. At least, that’s SHS coach Chad Edwards’ hope as he cautiously summed up his team’s flawless first half of the season.

“So far, so good,” Edwards said. “We’re continuing to attack the long list of things I feel we need to get better at. What’s exciting to me is I see us getting better. We’re evolving as a team.”

Plus, Austin Nicely is rounding into form. The senior forward scored 30 points at Handley, giving SHS more scoring to complement the consistent output of junior point guard Tucker McCoy and senior small forward Hyrum Weiler.

The Little Giants (8-4, 2-1) dropped their first game of the season at R.E. Lee (5-3, 3-0) on Dec. 15 and eventually lost three games in consecutive days at a holiday tournament in Charlottesville, which included Group AAA Albemarle.

“Winning the first seven games was kind of a surprise,” said WHS coach C. Jay DeWitt, whose team lacks varsity minutes despite returning nine. “At Charlottesville – we’re not very big, so we ran into some tough [matchups].”

Coming off a 79-76 win at Handley (9-2), Spotswood – one of the few Valley teams with a strong inside game to support perimeter shooting – enters the New Year with an impressive résumé that includes scoring 90-plus points in three games. In one of those against Amherst on Saturday, SHS had a 39-point first quarter.

“I just don’t see [SHS] dropping a game,” Turner Ashby coach Chad Seibert said. “…But at the same time, there’s been teams, with us included, that have had them in a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.”

The Blazers return to action Friday at Broadway (2-9, 0-3), and they have yet to face Fort Defiance (7-4, 2-1), Waynesboro or Lee – perhaps their toughest competition in the Valley. So SHS has something to prove still, right?

“Well, I don’t know. They’ve beaten quality opponents and quality opponents,” Lee coach Jarrett Hatcher said. “…We’re all kind of playing for second place.”

“They’re legit,” DeWitt said of SHS. “For us, we’re just trying to get better, and for us, we’d like to separate ourselves from maybe the other teams [besides Spotswood].”

TA and Fort have found success this season behind defense, but finding more consistent offense will be critical to challenge Spotswood (79.5 ppg).

The Knights (5-6, 1-3) suffered their second loss in three meetings with ERHS on Dec. 27 as leading scorer Shane Brown (14.8 ppg) remained in a shooting slump. But Seibert was optimistic following a New Year’s Day practice – one of several during the holiday break with the gym to themselves. The Knights know they can’t just rely on D.

“You’ve gotta put the orange thing in the orange thing, too,” Seibert said. “We hold East Rock to 48 and don’t win? Really? …We’ve gotta get back to scoring in transition like we were at the beginning of the season.”

Fort has allowed just 45.2 points per game and has beaten Broadway and Harrisonburg in Valley play. But the Indians lost to TA 41-31 at home. Still, led by double-figure scorers Adam Frazier and Trevor Lam, the balanced Indians consider themselves among the second-tier teams behind Spotswood.

“After them, it’s between us, Waynesboro and Lee – and I think Harrisonburg has the potential to be in that tier as well,” Fort coach Larry Leonard said.

Harrisonburg (2-7, 0-2) has struggled while learning first-year coach Scott Joyner’s new system – an uptempo flex offense with a matchup zone – largely on the road. HHS hung with Spotswood at home through three quarters in what Joyner called the team’s “most complete” outing on Dec. 11, but the Blazers dominated the final five minutes to win 71-52.

The Blue Streaks, who have lost four of their last five games, are hoping for better outcomes starting Friday at TA.

“We played two home games out of nine. Yeah, great way to treat the new guy, huh?” Joyner said with a laugh.