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Wood County Christian coaches itching to get on the court

Times file photo Wood County Christian’s Stella Dunn, center, attacks the basket during a high school girls basketball game last season.

WILLIAMSTOWN — When Rod Lanham was hired as the Wood County Christian School boys basketball coach after last season, he big plans for what the offseason was going to look like for his team.

He was going to help out the baseball team to get to know some of his players, run some camps to generate interest and hold some workouts to introduce his philosophies to his new team.

All of that was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now here we are approaching February, just a couple week before teams will be allowed to start practice, and Lanham has had next to no time in the gym with his team.

“It’s been difficult,” he said. “Me and the players haven’t really had the chance to get to know each other. It takes time to get your kids to trust, and we haven’t had that opportunity.”

Wood County Christian will be very inexperienced this season. Jesse Woomer is the lone senior on the team, along with juniors Michael Cline, Ben Weekly, Elijah Kuhl and Tyler Lanham, the head coach’s son. After that, the Wildcats are very, very young.

“We’re going to end up with five freshmen playing varsity basketball,” coach Lanham said. “It’s going to be a struggle this year. Our wins are going to have to come in different ways besides what is on the scoreboard. I took this job knowing that’s where we’re at. I’m here to build a program.”

Lanham previously coached at Ripley High School, and joins Wood County Christian in its first year as a member of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.

“Playing in the SSAC is going to be a little different,” he said. “Plus, we’ve got kids have been sitting idle since their soccer season had been over.”

Lanham recognizes the challenges his team will face this season, and is hoping his team will grow from facing the adversity.

“I’m a defensive-minded coach,” he said. “I run multiple defenses. This year, I’m going to simplify it. We’re going to do things differently. I’ll try to te4ach some halfcourt traps, give multiple looks. We’ve got to slow the ball down.

“I want to teach a lot of fundamentals this year. My goal by the end of the season is we’ll be able to defend, get better percentage shots and give ourselves a chance to be in basketball games.”

GIRLS BASKETBALL

As the Wood County Christian girls basketball team’s assistant coach, Ed Davis has watched the Wildcats grow and improve.

Now, Davis has taken over as the head coach and is hoping to help his team take the next step.

“I think they’re on the right path,” Davis said. “They’re getting better, but as they get older, more is expected.”

Two years ago, Wood County Christian struggled on the way to a five-win season before improving to 13-10 last year.

“Having a winning season was really important to them,” Davis said.

“We want to see growth. They went from five wins the year before to 13 last year. I think that gave them a springboard into this season.”

The Wildcats lost three seniors “that we’ll miss,” Davis said, but return their leading scorer, Sarah Michael.

“She had been coming off a serious knee injury,” Davis said, “so last year was her first year back and she did a lot of good things for us.”

Michael’s younger sister, Katie, is a junior post player who started every game last season.

Sophomore Stella Dunn started as a freshman and was the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer. Dunn was one of six freshmen who played last season. Lacey Dimit was one of them, and is a returning starter.

The other sophomores on the team are Sophie Daugherty, Angela Hartline and Gracelynn Napier.

Wood County Christian has three incoming freshmen — Kylee Border, Libi Meyer and Trish Erlandson. Border and Meyer both played in middle school, while Erlandson is a first-time player.

The team also expects to gain senior Ellie Powell, a “pretty talented kid” who played basketball a couple years ago before sitting out last season.

“That’s a pretty good roster for us,” Davis said. “With 11 or 12 kids, we will have some competitive practices. We are still pretty darn young, though. Most of those kids are freshmen and sophomores.”

Speed and athleticism will be strengths for the Wildcats, and Davis is hoping to take advantage of those attributes.

“We want to get the ball out and we want to run,” he said. “I feel like we have the personnel to do that, We had some success with it last year. There are specific things we can build on and add to.”

Though being in the SSAC will make for a different schedule, Davis said he expects to still play “some of the traditional christian teams.”

Even with the more challenging schedule, Davis is confident his girls can have a successful season, and more importantly, have fun.

“We need to use every minute of our time wisely,” he said. “This is a unique year. It’s going to be a short season. We as coaches need to make this as fun as we can make it. We all, including myself, get caught up in wins and losses, but it’s a short season and we want to try to make sure the kids have some fun with it and enjoy it, because it’s not been the easiest journey to get here.”

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