Let’s have one last look at winter Shayne Combs, firstname.lastname@example.org
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. SVC STREAKS
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 debate.
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 (email@example.com).
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.