On paper, the Shady Spring basketball team is easy to overlook. The Tigers do not have a strong basketball tradition of their own, but are surrounded by schools such as Oak Hill, Bluefield and Wyoming East who are considered perennial Class AA powers.
The 2010-11 Tigers return no all-state talent, boast only one player over 6-foot-3 and Head Coach Steve Clark’s leading scorer averages a modest 16 points-per-game.
But one stat might catch your eye when reading about this year’s Shady Spring squad — 11-0, which is their record so far this season. In fact the Tigers had not lost a game all season until their recent 69-64 loss to Pike View.
The most recent MetroNews Power Index has Shady second in Class AA and 13th overall in the state. These numbers are hard to overlook.
“We didn’t get any votes (in the state preseason poll) and this win should help the program out,” said Clark, after his team upset defending state champion Oak Hill on Dec. 30, giving the program its first signature win. “It’s a very, very big win.”
Shady Spring prides itself on its nard-nosed defense and balanced offensive attack. Their selfless style of play was key in upsetting Oak Hill and containing their all-state, player-of-the-year contender Kalif Wright to only 13 points.
“We never let him (Kalif Wright) get the ball inside,” Clark said. “That was our goal and Kevin (Goodson) did a good job on him and Coty Frye did too when Kevin came out.”
Seniors Kevin Goodson and Matt Severt understood that the victory against Oak Hill finally gave Shady Spring the statewide respect that they have been vying for all season.
“Since we’ve been here, we haven’t beaten Oak Hill,” said senior Matt Severt. “We knew if we wanted to do anything we had to beat Oak Hill. This is a big win for us.”
Goodson added, “We have a good team. A lot better than people think.”
The balanced Tiger attack is lead by sophomore Chase Conner. Conner, who saw significant minutes last year as a freshman, is leading the team with 16 points per game.
“We feel very confident with Chase,” Clark said. “He handles the ball well and has some nice moves.”
“We have three good guards and we can trade them up. It takes pressure off Eric. The more people can handle the ball, the better off you are.”
The 11-1 Tigers are already one victory away from matching their win total from last season’s 12-9 team, but Clark and his team still has dates remaining with Wyoming East and Oak Hill.
“The kids aren’t selfish and our effort has been good,” said Clark when talking about this year’s team. “We’re hoping to see this balance most of the year.”
If Shady Spring can ride their fundamental, balanced style of play to the state finals, it would be the school’s first trip to a basketball state championship game in their 87-year history.