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Boys notebook: No. 1 SC spreads the wealth on offense

Chip Ellis
South Charleston's Devyn Harris owns only two double-figure scoring games, but those are 21 points against Ripley and 20 against Huntington.
Chip Ellis Nitro's Hunter Ferrari has hung up his number 25 jersey and is now wearing number 22 in honor of injured teammate Sam Neff.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Playing against South Charleston amounts to a stealth game. You never quite know where the danger's coming from.

The Black Eagles, top-ranked among West Virginia Class AAA teams, have overwhelmed opponents so far, winning 13 of 14 games with an approach that leans heavily on team defense and less on individual offensive heroics.

SC sports just one player with a double-figure scoring average - sophomore forward A.D. Cunningham (15.7 points per game) - but never lacks a supporting cast.

Eight different Black Eagles have reached double figures in scoring in at least one game so far this season - Cunningham (high of 30 points), Devyn Harris (21), Rashaud Kincaid (17), Hunter Moles (17), Brandon Knapper (16), Neal Brown (13), Trevond Reese (12) and Tre Clark (10).

Someone's always filling it up for SC - which has received 33 double-figure scoring efforts in 14 contests - but it varies from game to game because with the Black Eagles' trademark pressure defense forcing turnovers and runouts the other way, it might be any of 10 players doing the damage.

"It could be anybody's night any night,'' said Harris, who knocked in 20 points in Tuesday's 66-46 win at No. 7 Huntington, draining five 3-pointers.

"We're a team. We share the ball a lot, and coach envies that. He talks about it all the time - how much we share the ball.''

Cunningham has reached double figures in 10 of 13 games, but if he's having an off night, it's little worry. In fact, in SC's five games against state AAA teams that have been ranked this season (Princeton, George Washington, Huntington, Hurricane and Woodrow Wilson), Cunningham has scored only 40 points.

Harris said SC's players don't care who the hero turns out to be from one night to the next.

"No, we're a family,'' he said, "That's the most important thing with our team. We've got a lot of seniors and we've grown up playing together all our lives. All we talk about is family. So we're going to do our best to keep striving for a state championship.''

Making South Charleston's lend-a-hand approach all the most impressive is the fact that it lost a potential all-state player last fall - junior guard and two-year starter Jon Elmore now attends Christ School in Arden, N.C. - and another possible starter, Cai Carena, transferred to George Washington.

Favor for a friend

Nitro's Hunter Ferrari can't be out there on the playing floor alongside his best friend and senior teammate, Sam Neff, who on Jan. 15 suffered a season-ending knee injury in a game at Woodrow Wilson.

So Ferrari has done the next-best thing. He's adopted Neff's jersey number as his own.

Ferrari, who wore his-beloved No. 25 throughout his four years in the Wildcats' program, switched to Neff's No. 22 for the rest of the season. He's now sported the number twice in games.

It's a decision Ferrari didn't come by lightly.

Neff played the team's first four games, scoring 20 points against Poca and 21 against Point Pleasant, but then was sidelined with mononucleosis. After missing six games, Neff returned against Woodrow but sustained a torn ACL early in that game and was lost for the rest of the season.

Ferrari felt he needed to pay tribute to his fallen teammate and friend in an appropriate way, and was permitted by coach Bryan Faber to wear Neff's uniform.

"Me and him first played basketball together in the second grade,'' Ferrari said, "and we've been teammates ever since. Really, in the past two summers, we've put in a lot of work outside the program and worked hard for this year.

"To have him play only a couple games like he did . . . I just thought he'd worked hard to be here and play for us, so I just thought I would dedicate the rest of the season and play for him. I know all the hard work he put in to try and make us better. I know it's killing him not being able to play.''

Ferrari and the Wildcats (7-7) are seeking to post the school's first winning record since 2007-08. Last year they finished 12-12 and currently with seven wins, they've already eclipsed their victory total from the three seasons previous to that.

But it hasn't been easy. Because of Neff's illness and injury and two missed games by freshman Trevor Taylor (11.3 points per game), Faber's projected starting five wound up playing just three games together this season.

"We've certainly had to change things,'' Faber said. "Where a lot of the things we had planned on doing as a team, well, we've had to go in a little bit of a different direction because of injuries and illnesses and different issues like that.''

Fast breaks

  • Chapmanville (8-5) has been a team built for all speeds this season. The Tigers have won games when their final point total has been in the 90s (once), 80s (once), 70s (once), 60s (twice), 50s (twice) and 40s (once).
  • Because of defections and academics, Capital's roster has been a revolving door this season. A total of 20 players have appeared in varsity games and scored points for the Cougars.
  • Times are tight: Eight of Winfield's 13 games have been decided by seven points or fewer, with the Generals going 3-5 in those games.
  • Valley's overall play has been sharp, but not its team free-throw shooting. The Greyhounds are 87 of 184 at the line for a mere 47.3 percent.
  • Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

     


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