ST. MARYS, W.Va. -St. Marys boys basketball showed no rust having a week off between games.
With the St. Marys High School Invitational scheduled to tip off tonight with the boys portion of the tournament, the Blue Devils are eager to step back on the hardwood after two impressive victories against Class AA programs- last Saturday at Ravenswood and again Monday against Ritchie County.
"In the (Little Kanawha Conference) North Division scheme of things, the wins were real important," St. Marys coach Mark Barnhart said. "It was also important for our sectional seeding and with the new format we are using. When you look at your seed, you look at all 13 schools in your regional."
In tonight's opener at 6 p.m., Clay-Battelle meets Frontier followed by St. Marys against Wirt County. In their season-opener, the Blue Devils defeated Wirt County 61-35. Barnhart expects a much tighter contest this time around.
"The first time we played Wirt County, they were just two weeks removed from the football playoffs," Barnhart said. "They will be a much different team than we saw earlier this year."
As of late, the Class A 12th-ranked Blue Devils (7-3) are a much different unit which lost to Wood County Christian in the first round of the Bob and Sharon Burton Classic at Paden City High School in mid-December.
St. Marys High School Invitational
Today: Boys - Clay-Battelle vs. Frontier, 6 p.m.; St. Marys vs. Wirt County, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: Girls - Wirt County vs. Point Pleasant, 6 p.m.; St. Marys vs. Belpre, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: Consolation - 1:30 p.m. (boys), 3:30 p.m. (girls). Championship - 5:30 p.m. (boys), 7:30 p.m. (girls)
"Wood County Christian really gave us trouble on the perimeter," Barnhart said. "I thought they did a good job beating us to the basket. When we pressured them, they seemed to have an answer for everything we did. They also did a number on us on the boards.
"Wood County Christian is a good team, and that point in the season they were a good test for us."
Since getting handled by Parkersburg Catholic, St. Marys has won five of its last six games. The only bump in the road was an overtime loss to (Racine) Southern in the Ohio River Classic held at Marietta College.
Southern entered that particular game with a 2-5 record, but has since rebounded with wins against St. Marys and Wahama.
"We knew that Southern was a good team and that game ended up being a better barometer than we thought," Barnhart said.
The following Saturday, the Blue Devils traveled to The Pit in Ravenswood and upset the previously unbeaten Red Devils 73-60.
St. Marys' rotation includes leading scorer K.D. Arnett (14.8 ppg) and leading rebounder Brett Wright (7.8 rpg and 9.2 ppg). Brandon Matthews (11.9 ppg and 2.9 apg) and Derek Renner (2.3 apg and 3.2 spg) serve as the Blue Devils' playmakers, while Garrett Wichterman is the team's outside shooting threat.
Providing depth off the bench are Derek Bayless, Justin Nichols and Andrew Cosper. A seven-day layoff might impact negatively for some teams, but not for St. Marys. The Blue Devils take practices very seriously. The intensity takes on a game-type approach.
"We have to practice extremely hard and put a lot into it because then the other stuff goes for naught," Barnhart said.