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With Williamstown Summer League winding down, coaches make moves

Williamstown’s Payton Bunch, left, applies the pressure on Parkersburg South ballhandler Connor McMullen during Tuesday’s game as part of the Williamstown Varsity Summer League. (Photo by Kerry Patrick)

WILLIAMSTOWN — With less than two weeks remaining before the Williamstown Varsity Summer League wraps up with its season-ending tournament, area basketball coaches are busy breaking down the pluses and minuses for players who will fill out their rosters for the upcoming high school basketball season.

“The league has been great for us even though we haven’t had everybody here all at once,” said Williamstown boys coach Scott Sauro, who enters his 19th season with the Yellowjackets and created the league 12 years ago with six teams.

Each summer, the league sees anywhere from 10 to 12 teams.

“We have not had everybody here yet, and that’s OK because other kids are getting opportunities to show what they can do,” Sauro continued.

“We are still super young. We have a heavy sophomore class and a heavy junior class and only one senior right now. We are kind of in the forming stage and see as a coaching staff what they can do and how much they have improved since March.

“A lot of these kids have improved and we want to see how their skill sets fit into our plans.”

Of the 10 teams competing this summer, both Marietta and Waterford showcase first-year coaches with the Tigers’ Austin Gardner and the Wildcats’ D.J. Cunningham.

“This summer league is an important time to implement your philosophy and what your team identity is going to be,” Sauro said. “And I think both of those guys are doing that.”

Entering his 13th season as the coach at Caldwell, Clint Crane isn’t a rookie by any means, but the Redskins have been lifted off the waiting list and joined the summer league for the first time this year.

“We are close to home and only a half-hour drive, and we are playing good competition,” Crane said.

“We used to go to St. Clairsville which was about an hour drive. A couple of years while we were on the waiting list for Williamstown, we went to Sheridan, which is where I am from. This is a little closer, which makes my wife happier.”

Caldwell uses the mix-and-match method with his personnel for the summer league games.

He gives his younger players quality playing time for the games at Williamstown and allows players like senior-to-be Bede Lori to compete in a league in Columbus against professional and collegiate players. Lori, a three-time All-Ohio selection, is just shy of 1,800 points for his career.

The Redskins return four of their top six players from last year’s 19-win season.

“We are excited about what we have,” Crane said.

Parkersburg South is another team in the field. The Patriots follow Caldwell’s philosophy and allow players to stick to their practice schedules for sports they compete in addition to basketball.

“We know what we are going to get from our older guys — we put our younger guys in spots maybe where they are a little uncomfortable, maybe have to do things they are not used to,” South coach Mike Fallon said. “This league is huge for us.”

Regardless of the personnel, Fallon and his staff are not shy about showcasing their vaunted end-to-end press. For the most part, Williamstown’s underclassmen found opening in the seams trying to keep pace with the Patriot five on the floor Tuesday night.

“We love our press,” Fallon said. “Last year, we amped it up even more and got a lot of stuff from West Liberty. We are going to amp it up even more this year.

“We learned a lot from what teams did to us against our press that we will be able to adjust to. The biggest thing about summer and the offseason is fixing all that stuff and where we had problems last year.”

To a certain degree, wins and losses are not the ultimate goal. However, it does have a purpose especially when a team goes 0-for-the first two weeks. Seeking its first wins of the summer league, Wirt County played a pair of games on Tuesday and defeated Caldwell 48-42 in the middle school gymnasium then switched to the high school gym and defeated Tyler Consolidated 58-45.

Aidan Cheuvront knocked down six 3-pointers in the first half against Caldwell. The junior-to-be didn’t stop there. His step-back 3-pointer with under 10 minutes remaining in the second half put the Tigers in front 41-32. Caldwell never got closer than four points the rest of the way.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half against Tyler Consolidated, Wirt County owned a one-point lead then increased the advantage to double digits in the matter of minutes.

“It definitely boosts our confidence when we win,” Cheuvront said. “It’s good competition in this league and really gets us ready for the season. It gets the chemistry started.”

Getting acclimated to the pace of play is one area which has been advantageous for the Tigers.

“Getting accustomed to the speed of the game, especially for the younger guys, is one thing we have seen improvement in,” Wirt County coach Chase Mills said.

Start times for the summer league are scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. The league tournament is set for Thursday, June 30 beginning at 4:30 p.m.

“This league has been a win-win,” Sauro said. “Kids are getting a lot of games. Not just for our kids, but all the teams in our league are getting a lot of games. It’s also a fundraiser for us — for operating costs for our program.

“We look for 14 teams next year, which would make for a great tournament.”

Contact Kerry Patrick at kpatrick@newsandsentinel.com

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