By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Don’t ask coach Wayne Ryan if Summers County is “back?”
His reply is immediate. “I don’t think we went anywhere.”
The Lady Bobcats had an amazing run from 2007-2011, capturing a state-record five consecutive Class AA state championships and winning 105 games in a row, also a record.
But Summers failed to reach the state tournament in 2012 and 2013. While some might have surmised the talent in Hinton had disappeared, the truth was injuries had taken out numerous starters both seasons.
When the Associated Press preseason poll came out early this month, the Bobcats barely made the rankings at No. 10.
Ryan has no problem with that.
“Naturally we can use it as motivation,” he said. “But does it really matter at this time?”
Healthy, motivated and talented, the Summers of old has roared back to life. The Lady Bobcats are 5-0 in December, having defeated their opponents by an average 87.4-53.4 score.
They opened with an 83-33 victory over Class AAA Shady Spring, then defeated longtime AA foe James Monroe 94-74.
Summers next won its own tournament, the Rogers Oil Classic, by rolling to a 91-40 win over Webster County in the opening round, and surviving a double-overtime thriller with AA No. 6 Clay County, 78-73.
A 91-47 win over Wyoming East last Thursday has the Lady Bobcats sitting undefeated and ready to advance in the next poll, early in January.
“We’ve got a lot of kids who can contribute. We can put five on the floor that all have to be guarded,” Ryan said. “We play a tempo a lot of teams don’t like. All are factors in our favor.”
The main cog has been center Brandy Morrison, who has been a force to be reckoned with. She’s scored at least 28 points in each game, and averages 32, plus nine rebounds and six steals.
“Brandy has just been outstanding,” Ryan said of the 5-foot-11 senior. “Her all-around game has really improved. She’s got a lot of points off defense.
“She wants to do well, and she gives great effort. It’s now her turn. And what a great kid! I couldn’t be happier with her success.”
Beyond Morrison, the Lady Bobcats are strong in the other positions, despite losing forward Shelby Smith to an injury.
Forward Avery Pivont (10 points a game) has had several double-doubles. Hustling wing Abby Taylor (6) can score, but is even more valuable as the Lady Bobcats’ lockdown defender. Freshman twins Whittney (13) and Brittney (10) Justice can each play several positions and are stars of the future.
Off the bench, speedy Brennah Davis (8) has impacted several games with her play, and guard Audrey Holley has been solid in the transition. Forward Kaitlin Thomas and guard Nayla Bonds add depth.
“I’m not ‘satisfied,’ but I’m pleased with all of them,” Ryan said. “At different times, all of them have stepped up.”
Summers must continue to improve. They’re not the only good team in Region 3.
“Westside (4-0) and PikeView (4-1) are both outstanding teams,” he said. “The region is pretty powerful, but only two teams will get out.”
Tougher games are ahead, not only against the No. 1 Renegades and No. 8 Panthers, but with the likes of No. 12 Scott (4-0), a two-time Summers opponent in the state championship game; a much-improved Bluefield (2-2), and the next opponent, Chapmanville (3-1), on Jan. 4 at 2 p.m.
“We’ll play them as they come,” Ryan said. “What we worry about is whether we’re progressing up the ladder.”
— E-mail: dstillwell@