The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 25, 2014

Ayers-less Warriors cruise past Independence 112-53

— There’s only one word needed to describe Wyoming East’s play Friday night against sectional foe Independence.


The Class AA No. 3-ranked Warriors (8-1) knocked down 47 field goals in a 112-53 beatdown of the Patriots in Coal City.

East coach Rory Chapman, ever the sportsman, never set out with the plan to run the score up, removing his starters for much of the second half and getting younger and inexperienced players some valuable time against a varsity opponent.

“When you go guys 1 through 13 and everybody gets on the scoreboard — that happens,” he said. “Everybody shot the ball well and shared the ball well. It was a great team effort.”

The Warriors did manage to get every player on the scoreboard, including five players who finished with double-digits, led by senior point guard Austin Canada, who scored 20. Twelve of those points came from 3-point territory.

Maybe more impressive was the defensive play of the Warriors, who used their athleticism and size to force countless Patriots’ turnovers in the first two quarters to jump out to a 55-14 lead at the half.

The high pressure and up-tempo defense is what Chapman hopes his team will become the trademark of his team.

“We challenge our team,” he said. “That’s what we work on every day in practice. A lot of teams come out and work on their offense. Guess what? We come out and work on our defense.”

The Warriors start each practice with a 20-minute full-court segment of nothing but transition defense.

They then came out and played that same full court defense for the first 16 minutes of the game.

“Sometimes, if we don’t start practice with that, our practices will be lackadaisical,” he said. “It just transfers over to the game.”

If any player on the Warriors roster personifies the defense, it’s senior guard Christian Hedinger, who was a force that Independence had to deal with all night. Hedinger used his long and athletic frame to trap the smaller Independence guards and force turnovers, allowing his team to score buckets in transition and jump out to a commanding lead.

“Christian’s probably the most hard nosed kid I’ve ever coached,” Chapman said. “He hates to lose. It doesn’t matter if its in practice or if it’s Monopoly. He hates to lose, and he plays with so much heart and fire. He’s a great defender.”

Hedinger, who finished with 7 points, is the consummate team player. On games when his shot isn’t falling, he doesn’t let it get him down. Instead, he just plays that much harder on defense.

“It’s all about teamwork,” he said. “That’s what I look for and work hard for. I have nothing but teamwork on my mind.”

Friday was all about teamwork for the Warriors, who, according to the Wyoming East scorekeeper, finished the night unofficially with 30 assists as a team — a new Wyoming East record. Many of those were forced by Hedinger.

“I like working hard on defense,” he said. “If my shot’s not going, I’m not going to rely on my offense, but I’m going to rely on my defense and work on that.”

For the Patriots, who dropped to 0-10 on the season, it was a game full of growing pains. Coach Chad Perkins’ team plays a large group of freshmen and sophomores, whom Perkins feels may have been intimidated by the more complete and experienced Warriors team.

“On certain nights, they’re able to play really well,” he said. “But tonight some of them never got comfortable. They were just overwhelmed with the talent and physical play. It was a well officiated game, but when you have an athletic guy who is guarding you, that’s big. They just couldn’t settle in. I thought Adam Tolliver settled in and played well. Cody Collins played well. I was pleased with the way he played, but we’re searching and just inconsistent right now. We’ve go to hold people to ’50s and ’60s to have a chance.”

The Patriots finished four points higher than their average points per game of 49, thanks largely in part to the play of sophomore Chris Mills, who had 17 points and five 3-pointers.

“He had a big 50 point night in the JV game a few weeks ago,” Chapman said. “He was able to get that 3-ball down for us.”

The game did see the return of Warrior sophomore Cody Lester, who has missed the last few weeks with an injury. It makes the first time this season Lester and older brother Tyler have both saw the court for East.

“They’ve not been out there together yet, but that has to be a lot of fun playing high school basketball with your brother,” Chapman said. “I can only imagine how cool that feels. It’s important for the team, we all wanted them back, so hopefully everybody will stay healthy.”

One player who was not in uniform tonight was new Wyoming East transfer Taron Ayers, the 2013 Register-Herald Player of the Year, who is awaiting the final all-clear to begin his season.

Chapman expects to know Tuesday, the night the Warriors take on Mount View in the Big Atlantic Classic, the fate of his newest weapon.

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