By Mark Carpenter
Peebles High School was the place to be for local boys basketball fans on Friday, November 19 as the Indians played host to the 2021 Southern Hills Athletic Conference Boys Basketball Preview. As always, all 10 of the schools in the conference were in action, again in the two-quarter format where coaches admittedly don’t show “too much’ but fans get that first peek at their local squads and begin to immediately form those opinions on how the upcoming season will pan out.
The evening of hoops action began with Coach Nathan Copas and his North Adams Green Devils battling the Ripley Blue Jays in what turned out to be an entertaining 16 minutes of basketball between what for one night looked like two evenly-matched teams. high-scoring half ended with the Devils on top 32-25.
The North Adams boys are solid at the guard position and will rely on a lot of outside shooting in the upcoming campaign and that was on display early on Friday night as the Devils nailed a trio of three-point goals in the opening period, two by sophomore Bransyn Copas and another by senior transfer Cameron Campbell. Those long attacks helped the Devils lead 18-15 after one.
With both teams substituting freely as in normal preview behavior, the North Adams defense only allowed 10 second quarter points to the Jays, while another three-pointer, this one from junior Kamden Buttelwerth, helped his team hang on for the preview triumph.
“We have to play well defensively and rebound to be a successful team,” said Coach Copas in a postgame radio interview. “If we play with energy and do the little things right, like taking acre of the basketball, we can be alright.”
In the abbreviated half, the Devils were paced by 10 points from Bransyn Copas, 7 from Cameron Campbell, and 5 from Caleb Rothwell, a trio that should fill the scoring columns quite often this season. Ripley was led by 10 points from senior Braiden Bennington.
Next up on the preview docket was a match up of a pair of Adams County squads, as the Manchester Greyhounds tangled with the West Union Dragons. Though missing a number of players on Friday due to COVID issues, the Greyhounds under Coach Greg Scott, are an experienced squad boasting seven seniors, while the Dragons are the opposite, an inexperienced team under the direction of new head coach Shane Fultz. The Hounds also have one of the top players in the SHAC in senior Isaiah Scott, who enters the 2021-22 season just 47 points shy of 1,000 for his career, and Scott and the Hounds rolled in Friday’s preview, dominating the Dragons in a 36-10 victory.
Manchester made their statement early, racing to a 21-2 lead after the first eight minutes of play. Scott was unstoppable in that opening frame, racking up 11 points. The Hounds also got a three-point goal from Conner Darnell, while the only West Union bucket of the period came from senior Bobby Gallowitz.
Even with their inexperience, the Dragons will certainly be a scrappy and hustling bunch, and in the second quarter, they played much better, getting three-point goals from freshman James Smith and senior Braxton Shoemaker on the offensive end. In that second stanza, the Greyhounds got seven more points from Scott and a pair of baskets from senior Ryland Wikoff as they showed Manchester fans a solid offensive and defensive half, one where “everyone” on both rosters sees some action.
“We’ve been through all the COVID protocols over the past few days and we had some players out but the good thing is they should all be back before the regular season starts,” said Coach Scott in his postgame radio spot. “The rest of us had to go get tested yesterday to be here tonight. Our kids have worked hard and they were excited to be on the court tonight.”
“Coming in not being from West Union and not knowing a lot about these kids makes it a little tough,” said West Union’s Coach Fultz, a Ripley High School graduate, in his radio chat with C103. “We still have a lot of work to do, especially with conditioning.”
The final Adams County squad to take the court for preview action was the the hosts, Coach Josh Arey and his Peebles Indians, who will be pitting some pieces back together after suffering a plethora of graduation losses. The Indians have only two seniors on their roster, only one of which has seem any extensive varsity playing time, and they faced off with one of the more experienced teams in the SHAC, the Fairfield Lions.
The Peebles-Fairfield match up on Friday was an interesting affair, up and down action for 16 minutes. The Indians started slow, falling behind early, before they lost the jitters and settled down. A three-point goal from junior Cory Reed combined with three buckets inside from senior Alan McCoy allowed the Tribe to battle back and trail the Lions just 12-10 after one period of play.
The Lions have the potential to be one of the top offensive squads in the conference, with a variety of weapons, and as both teams substituted often, Fairfield got scoring contributions from six different players in the second quarter as they tallied 22 points. In that same span, the Indians, with Coach Arey trying numerous combinations on the court, only managed 10 points, 8 of those from junior Hayden Crum. When the buzzer sounded to end the second period, the Lions had pulled away late to post a 34-22 triumph, leaving fans anxious to see what the regular season match up betwwen these two teams might hold.
“We’re a work in progress, after losing a lot of seniors, but we really like this year’s group,” said Coach Arey in the postgame. “Our kids play extremely hard, 1 through 12, and when your kids do that we’ll coach them up and hopefully by mid-season moving forward we’ll be right in the mix. They’re a young group but they’re fun to be around. We have a great coaching staff, our past success is certainly not something I’m responsible for. We’ve had great kids and our staff is second to none.”
In the preview play, the Indians placed four players in the scoring column, led by Hayden Crum with 8. McCoy added 7, Reed had 5, and the final two came from Chris Oldfield off the bench. Fairfield was led in the half by 10 points from Tytis Cannon.
All eyes now point to the regular season for the county’s boys basketball squads.
North Adams will open their regular season slate on Tuesday, November 30 when they will travel to Southeastern in a non-conference opener. West Union will be at home on Saturday, November 27, hosting the New Boston Tigers.
Manchester will also open at home on November 27. hosting a non-conference tilt with the Portsmouth Clay Panther. Finally, the Peebles Indians will be the last county squad to debut, jumping right into conference play on Friday, December 3 when they will host the Ripley Blue Jays.