CLEAR FORK —
Despite a returning four starters from last year’s regional championship team, and a victory over a quality Class AAA opponent a week ago, there were plenty of questions surrounding the Westside Renegades.
Namely, how are they going to win when the shooting goes cold, and how deep is their bench?
Luckily for coach Nick Cook, he’s finding that out early.
Westside walked away with a 68-59 victory over defending Class A champion Tug Valley Friday night in a game that left both teams — and their fanbases — frustrated.
Westside managed to use its high-speed offense to its favor early in the first half, outscoring the Panthers 13-2, but Tug Valley came roaring back in the second half, putting up 19 points, thanks mostly to a litany of fouls that slowed the Renegades down.
“It was just frustrating all together,” Cook said. “There were a ton of fouls called. I’m not saying they were or were not fouls, but it kind of disrupted the flow of the game.”
In a game reminiscent of Westside’s first round exit in the state tournament, there were 28 fouls called in the first half, leaving the Renegades in early foul trouble. Cook had no choice but to go nine deep in his roster, bringing in Bryce Robinson, Larry Cook, Dalton McComas and Shawn Jenkins to spell his normal starters.
“We put a lot of kids out there tonight,” he said. “It’s good to see those guys get quality minutes, but I expect any of the kids I put out there to be able to do what I expect of them.”
As if the odds weren’t stacked against Westside enough, starting senior guard Levi Lambert left the game early in the first quarter after suffering an injury to his face.
“Losing Levi hurt a lot,” Cook said. “We can’t say enough about Levi. Losing him early in the game definitely hurt us.”
With Lambert out of the lineup, the Panthers began to key in on the two most recognizable names on the roster: Corey Bowles and Justin Cogar. What the Panthers failed to take into consideration were sharpshooter Will Fox, who had a game high 24 points and his counterpart Justin Kenneda who finished with 15.
“I don’t think you can really key in on any player on our team,” Cook said. “I know a lot of people say ‘well maybe you run a box and one or a triangle and two,’ and I say ‘go for it.’ I feel like I have so many guys who can put the ball in the basket from anywhere.”
It was a new look Panthers team, who lost four starters from last year’s championship winning squad, including stars Austin Brewer and Mikey Newsome, who are in their first season with University of Charleston.
Sophomore sensation Calvin Blankenship led the way for Tug Valley with 18 points.
“Anybody that thinks Tug Valley isn’t very good because of the kids they lost better drink some different Kool-Aid,” Cook said. “That’s a quality team we played tonight. Just the win alone, I’m more than happy with that.”
The Renegades improve to 3-0 on the season, which was a thought that left the frustrated Cook smiling in the hallway after the game.
“When we scheduled this stretch with Greenbrier East, Independence and Tug Valley we knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “Will we take 3-0? You’re doggone right we will.”
Renegade will next host North Marion Friday at 7:30 p.m.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins
Tug Valley (2-1)
Kyle Newsome 0 0-2 0, Aaron Copley 1 0-0 3, Chandler Runyon 1 0-0 3, Hayden Sturgell 5 5-9 15, Austin Baisden 1 1-2 3, Calvin Blankenship 6 2-4 18, Thomas Baisden 7 3-3 17. Totals: 21 11-20 59.
Will Fox 10 1-2 24, Larry Cook 0 0-0 0, Jordan Browning 1 3-3 5, Corey Bowles 2 5-10 10, Justin Kenneda 3 7-12 15, Levi Lambert 0 3-4 3, Justin Cogar 4 3-6 11, Dalton McComas 0 0-0 0, Shawn Jenkins 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 22-37 68.
TV 2 19 14 24 — 59
H 13 20 21 14 — 68
3-point goals — TV: 6 (Blankenship 4, Copley, Runyon); W: 6 (Fox 3, Kenneda, Bowles). Fouled out — none.�