Let’s have one last look at winter
Shayne Combs, admin1@svcsportszone.com
Assuming the weather is about to allow spring sports to start, let’s take a minute to look back at a great winter one
last time. The boys provided us some great competition in basketball. We argued the words parity or quality all year,
but the one thing not for debate is the number of great finishes. Part of the problem with parity is the amazing run
that Unioto continues to make.

Think about it! We are watching history that will never be approached again, and we have become so bored with it
that we don’t even remember the number. I will even run into Unioto fans or hear Unioto people talking about it, and
even they can’t remember if the number is 48 or 52 (by the way, I believe the website has it recorded at 55-straight
SVC wins). Now, look at what they have coming back (Peyton Hill, Logan Swackhammer, Brandon Kennedy, and
Gabe Fisher) compared to the rest of the league and you can’t help thinking about adding another 14 to the
number. At that point – not to take ANYTHING away from Adena volleyball (once won 98 straight SVC matches), that
would be the greatest SVC streak in my mind.

I can’t even imagine. In a sport with a clock instead of playing to a score, and in a sport where the score is kept from
start to finish instead of playing best out of three or five and starting over each time, it is insane to me to truly stop
and think about what Unioto has done and is still doing. The scary thing about this Unioto team is the fact that they
were still trying to completely establish their identity throughout the year. They actually started playing their best
basketball at the end of the year, and if the younger levels prove capable of replacing the depth they graduated,
they could be crazy-good in 2017-2018.

Beyond the top team in Unioto, this league had plenty of other storylines during the season. The race for second
place was incredible. The unpredictable match-ups were constant. Teams two through eight basically proved to be
coin flips. In the end the senior guard play of Piketon and Adena found its way to 9-5, but it was hard not to look at
some of the other storylines that took over throughout the year.

First, only Westfall at 1-13 had trouble winning some SVC games. We mentioned on
SVC Sports Talk all year that a
crazy league would only be that much crazier if not for the terrible injury to preseason POY candidate Corey Wyman.
If anyone didn’t agree with those remarks, I would say the all-SVC sectional bracket down at Waverly answered that

Next, Dylan Swingle enjoyed a few breakout performances early in the year, and once the 6-11 junior realized he
could score 30 points with multiple dunks, it was like he started doing it every night. His second-half performance in
the Oak Hill game at the Convo was incredible. Our league has never seen anything like him, and we get the
privilege of watching him again next year. SVC fans, Swingle will enter his senior season with a chance to be the
greatest scorer in conference history. Based on a minimum of 23 games, the SVC POY would have to average 21.87
ppg. to pass 1992 Unioto graduate Matt Combs who has been at the top for two-and-half decades now at 1,726
career points. On a personal note, it has been a pleasure to watch Dylan grow up at Paint Valley. I had a chance to
have Dylan in class in middle school, and I know firsthand how hard he has worked at improving his body and his
basketball skills. I can think of no player more worthy of passing my brother on the all-time list. It is also going to be a
special day, when Dylan decides which of the D-I colleges he wants to sign with giving the SVC a rare D-I athlete.

Let’s take a chance to defend the boys one last time. Even with half the league forced to eliminate each other before
the tournament even moved to Athens, the SVC still managed to advance the maximum number of four teams to the
district tournament. At the Convo, Unioto, as mentioned earlier, was playing great basketball at the end of the year
and came up one point shy of a district title as they fell to an eventual regional runner-up in Vinton County. Paint
Valley suffered equal heartbreak as the Bearcats were eliminated by a single point on a late three-point shot from
Oak Hill. Only Piketon had a near impossible draw against Fairland – a team now preparing to play in the Final Four,
and of course our most improbable story of the year the Southeastern Panthers.

The Panthers provided us a special ride that makes tournament basketball so special. From Aaron Benson’s buzzer-
beater against ZT, to SE taking down tournament favorites in Lynchburg Clay, Minford, and Oak Hill, the slipper
certainly proved to be blue and proof that it truly is never too late for a team to come together, get hot, and play its
best basketball at the end of the year. First-year head coach Andy Slaughter had a lot of pieces to sort out
throughout the year. I know in sports we always say you are what your record says you are, but at 3-11 in the SVC
and 5-17 overall, we all knew SE had played a brutal non-league schedule and had nearly half their losses come by
single digits. Still, I doubt that anyone predicted the SE fans making a trip to Athens, and if you say you knew they
would make three of them, I would have to simply call you a liar.

As a coach, I was most fascinated on how the Panthers did finally start to roll. The Panthers started fitting into more
defined roles, they were able to consistently get their best athletes on the floor – regardless of position – and the
growth of a young point guard finished the formula that equaled a Sweet 16 run.

Let’s move to the girls. The SVC continues to get criticized quite a bit in the website inbox as well as a lot of other
feedback I get throughout the year. In all honesty the league experienced some great success in many areas this
year. The champion, Southeastern, was a legit district title contender led by a great player in Ella Skeens. As for the
rest of the league, there were three other teams – Unioto, Piketon, and Huntington, who won 15 or more games, and
the top six teams in the league were 34-14 in nonconference play during the regular season.

Southeastern, who had somewhat of a slow start after a long tournament run from both its volleyball and soccer
teams, overcame a tough opening day loss to Wheelersburg to win 23 straight games. Following a gold ball SVC
championship and a sectional title, the Lady Panthers were beaten against Eastern Brown in the district finals. That
Eastern Brown team would later advance to the Final Four.

Some of the criticism is fair, and we as a league have to continue to improve in certain areas. On the other hand,
some of it comes as a result of fans not understanding the dynamics of the southeast district. Other than
Southeastern, it was a tough postseason for the SVC. Only Piketon advanced to the district; however, this is where
volleyball and basketball are just a little different in terms of southeast landscape.

For example, take a look at the Division III Valley Sectional. Adena, Huntington, and Piketon are competing for four
spots in the district against Eastern Brown, Lynchburg Clay, and North Adams. Those three SHAC teams all
advanced to the Sweet 16 and EB eventually beat LC in an all-SHAC regional championship.

Another example comes in D-II for Unioto. The Shermans are in a sectional with the likes of Miami Trace, McClain,
and Chillicothe to name a few. The Tanks lost to Miami Trace – a team that advanced to this year’s Final Four.
The point I am making – and not an excuse, simply a point – is that the league in basketball is going to have to find a
way to play at an extremely high level to just win sectional titles. The good news for the league is once we find a way
to do this; we are going to be more than capable of competing with some of the top teams in the state.

The one thing that is not for debate is the fact that we have some special individual players. Three-time SVC Player
of the Year, Ella Skeens is currently 12th all-time in SVC history at 1,243 career points. In her senior season (based
on minimum of 23 games), Skeens will need to average 19.87 ppg. to become our league’s fourth 2,000 point
scorer, 30.09 ppg to catch Kelly Downs as Southeastern’s all-time scorer, and 30.96 to become the all-time leading
scorer in SVC history. Keep in mind that is based on SE playing just one tournament game, so those numbers would
start to lower based on how far SE advances in next year’s postseason.

As you can imagine, the one thing that happens in a league with Skeens is the fact that many other players can get
overlooked. At the top of the list, we need to honor her teammate Audrie Wheeler one last time. Wheeler finished as
the 20th all-time leading scorer in league history with 1,330 points. Joining Skeens in the Class of 2018 of players
who are going to rewrite the record books is Paint Valley’s Lexi Woods. Woods is currently 33rd all-time in SVC
history at 1,155 career points, and she will need to average 15.87 ppg. next season to pass Molly Mahaffey for the
top spot in Paint Valley history. If Woods is able to accomplish this incredible feat that would make her just the 15th
SVC girl to pass 1,500 career points, and if the average climbed as high as 18.17, Woods still has a chance to finish
in the Top-10 all-time.

All totaled this season the SVC girls had six girls honored in some way at the state level. The list included: Skeens
(1st Team), Huntington’s Braiden Collins (Special Mention) – who scored over 500 points in her first varsity season,
Woods (Special Mention), Unioto’s Jocie Fisher (Special Mention), Wheeler (Honorable Mention), and Piketon’s Kara
Blanton (Honorable Mention).

Before capping off the winter, I do want to say a few more things. First, I want to say congrats to the Westfall
Mustangs on their SVC wrestling title. Next, congrats to all of our SVC wrestlers that accomplished an all-league
finish as well as great tournament success. The website is looking to grow its coverage of wrestling, but it is no
different than any other sport, we need coaches to report information to the website in order to accurately post it

Finally, we can’t say hello to spring without saying goodbye to Derrick Webb and Brock Netter of the Chillicothe
Gazette. When we started the website back in the Fall of 2008, one of biggest goals was to help upgrade the
coverage of our great league. I felt our area got to a point a few years back with Mike Smith still at the radio and
Derrick and Brock at the Gazette where we were covering at a high level. It allowed the website writing to decrease,
our podcast (SVC Sports Talk) really blossomed, and coverage was good. Now, we sit here a little unsure of the
future coverage. What we do know is our league is a great league, and we will continue to work hard as a website
and a fan-base to cover, respect, cheer for, and honor the SVC.