All six boys basketball teams that make up the Western Piedmont 2-A Conference have gotten off to a solid start in their 2015-16 seasons.
Wednesday night saw defending conference champ North Surry become the final WP2A team to make its hardwood debut, and the Greyhounds started their campaign with a dominating 63-46 victory over visiting Bishop McGuinness.
The other local team from this conference, Surry Central, was one of the first WP2A team to play. The Golden Eagles opened with a 72-62 win at North Wilkes two days before Thanksgiving, and then played back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. A one-point loss to Wilkes Central was followed by a game where Surry Central couldn’t get on track until it was too late to avert a 66-54 home loss to rival Mount Airy.
The rest of the league looks to be competitive this season. Every other team in the WP2A already has at least two wins, and South Stokes, whose football team failed to make the playoffs, used that fact to get an early start on hoops. The Sauras have already played five times, winning three. Forbush has also played in five games, with a 2-3 start, while West Stokes and Carver have both played twice and won both.
The Wildcats are coming off an 14-11, 7-3 season in 2014-15, finishing third in the conference. The team was knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by North Surry. Coach Dan Spainhour welcomes back five experienced seniors and expects to be a contender this year.
This quintet consists of Caustin Beckner, Kameron Wall, Gavin Parker, Brodedric Howard, and Andrew Spainhour. Four of the five are transitioning from football after being part of a record-breaking season. Beckner is nursing an ankle injury and is expected to be on the court in the next one to two weeks.
The Wildcats didn’t show any signs of rust in their most recent game, hammering Elkin 88-42 on Monday night.
West Stokes only graduated two seniors last season, Spencer Hensley and Keshawn Rawleigh, but the memorable duo were both all-conference, four-year varsity players and part of the conference championship team in 2013.
“We’re losing some of that confidence Spencer gave us, but we’ll find our own voice. Those two are hard to replace. We’ve got to sort out our guards, particularly our point guard. Keshawn had it for three or four years,” coach Spainhour said.
The Sauras have been in a steady decline since the team won 19 games five years ago and missed a trip to the state finals by two games. Last year, South Stokes won just one conference game and six overall, finishing last in the WP2A.
“It’s time to quit the talking and start playing a little better,” said coach Jason Clark. “We were young and I’m hoping we can see some progress on the court. They’ve worked hard over the summer. They’ve kept playing together, which was very crucial for us to get better.”
Clark knows how to put a winning team on the court. He was there for the 19-win 2010-11 season and for 16-win seasons in each of the next two years. He says that a lot depends on the players.
“We’ve had success here in basketball when our teams have bought in. I haven’t changed my coaching style over the years. It comes down to what the kids will adapt to and what they’re going to do,” Clark said.
The coach is looking to his four seniors this season: Bryson Misenheimer, Landon Johnstone, Jaylin Simmons, and newcomer Keelan Goodwin, for leadership on and off the court.
South Stokes is already halfway to its win total from all last year. The Sauras opened with a 70-65 win over Rockingham County, then suffered narrow defeats at the hands of McMichael (56-48) and North Forsyth (65-61). They bounced back with a two-game winning streak, downing Walkertown 59-40 and Starmount 55-52 earlier this week.
“This team has a good chemistry; they play well together,” Clark said. “There’s no selfishness and I love coaching teams like that. They don’t care who gets the accolades.”
The Yellowjackets finished second in the conference last year, finishing 18-7, 8-2, one game behind North Surry. The teams swapped homecourt wins, but Carver lost a share of the WP2A title when it was upset in its penultimate regular-season game by West Stokes.
The Yellowjackets reached the second round of the 2-A state playoffs before falling 70-58 to Lexington. It has been quite an ascent for a program that won just a single game when this year’s seniors were freshmen, and Carver has a real chance to continue its rise this winter.
Coach Wil Perry, the architect of the turnaround in Winston-Salem, has a strong starting five and only needs to rebuild his depth. Seven of the 12 players who made up the 2014-15 Carver varsity have graduated, and one other player decided not to return. Fortunately for the Yellowjackets, three of their best players are among those who did come back, and they’re not wallowing in youth.
Eleven of this year’s team’s 13 players are upperclassmen. Jachia Powell, an imposing 6’8” big man and a four-year starter,and senior guard Tyquan Watson are co-captains of this year’s team. That pair, along with Watson’s classmate and backcourt-mate Kelvin Jones, are the team’s top performers.
Carver opened the season on Black Friday with a game against Southwestern Randolph in the Headliner’s Challenge in Trinity. The experience of the Yellowjackets was in evidence, as Carver rallied from a second-half deficit to force overtime, then outscored the Cougars 8-0 in the overtime for a 74-66 victory. On Monday, the team made its home debut and edged Uwharrie Charter 57-54.
The Falcons failed to make the playoffs last season, posting a 7-16, 3-7 mark that included two victories over a rebuilding Surry Central outfit and a win at South Stokes, who finished last in the WP2A. However, the team struggled to stop anyone defensively, allowing 80 or more points in a game a whopping 12 times, including 96 in one game, and also provided the struggling Sauras with their only conference win.
On the other hand, when the Falcons’ up-tempo style was clicking, Forbush could be really good. The Falcons scored 109 points in one game and 103 in another one.
This year’s team is off to a 2-3 start, but is literally three points in regulation from being undefeated — all three of Forbush’s losses came in overtime, and all three were decided by one possession in the extra time. Forbush opened with a 76-73 OT loss to East Wilkes on Nov. 17, routed North Wilkes 83-43 three nights later, and then lost 80-78 in overtime to Statesville Christian on Nov. 23. After an eight-day layoff came another heartbreaker on Monday, a 61-59 OT setback to North Wilkes. On Tuesday night, Forbush bounced back and claimed a 79-72 revenge win over East Wilkes, thankfully sans overtime.
The Falcons like to run, and fortunately, they have players who know how to put the ball in the basket. Senior guard Hunter Chapman leads the attack, with 17 points per game. Right on his heels is junior guard Micah Cranfill, checking in at 16.3. Post players Logan Lineberry, a junior, and senior Carson Matthews are impressive in both the scoring (15.0 and 14.8 ppg, respectively) and rebounding (10.0 and 10.2) parts of the game. Forbush has a dozen players on its roster, and coach Jody Christopherson uses them all.
Reach John Cate on Twitter at @johncate73. Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.