UPPERGLADE, W.Va. — Ahead of Monday’s matchup against Trinity at Greater Beckley Christian, Webster County was out to prove a point.
It’s not that the Highlanders felt the 12-0 record they entered the contest with should be questioned, but they are aware there are people around the state that feel as though the team isn’t as legitimate as its record.
“I told the kids every day that was our first mark on the calendar was that Trinity game,” Webster County coach Michael Gray said. “We’re from an area where we don’t get a lot of publicity. I knew we had a good team and the conference we play in (Little Kanawha Conference) is a good conference, but we’re going to be judged on how we play Trinity, how we play Greater Beckley Christian and how we play in our LKC championship.”
Following a 71-52 victory against Trinity, which entered with a 10-2 record, the Highlanders served notice that not only is an unbeaten regular season in play, but they are among Class A’s elite and a state championship contender.
“If we play as a team and work together, we can compete with anybody,” said Drew Holcomb, a 6-foot-4 senior averaging 11.4 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds per game.
Starting five seniors and with seven on its roster, Webster County entered this season with high expectations. Considering the Highlanders finished 18-7 a year ago and made it to the state tournament before suffering a quarterfinal loss to Ravenswood, there was plenty of reason for optimism ahead of the 2018-2019 campaign.
After Tuesday’s 83-40 victory at Gilmer County, the Highlanders have won each of their first 14 games by double figures this season — including only two by fewer than 20 points (a 12-point win at Roane County is the team’s closest game).
“We all know each other so well,” Holcomb said. “We all know what we can each do and we push each other further so we can go as far as we can.”
Balance is a big reason for the Highlanders’ success, with four players averaging in double figures and six scoring at least seven points per game.
Dorian Groggs averages a team-high 20.9 points, while Tyler Gray (15.4) and Cole Taylor (13.9) join Holcomb in double figure scoring averages. The team’s fifth starter, guard Pryce Gadd, and reserve Garrett Hamrick average 7.3 and 7.1 points, respectively.
“We’re probably seven or eight deep and we have a different high scorer each game,” coach Gray said. “Four kids averaging in double figures so we’re as balanced as you can be.”
All five Webster County starters are listed as at least 6-feet tall, though Groggs (6-0), Gray (6-1) and Gadd (6-2) are primarily backcourt players.
That leaves post work to be handled by Taylor and Holcomb, a pair of athletic forwards capable of running the floor and finishing around the rim. They combined for 37 points in the victory against the Warriors, with Taylor’s 23 leading the way in the Highlanders’ impressive win.
“We just have to show people who we are no matter where we’re located,” Holcomb said. “We know who we are and we have to keep playing our game.”
The Highlanders finish their January schedule against Clay County and Richwood, before a challenging February slate awaits. Webster County will face Braxton County to start next month, before meeting Independence at West Virginia State and then taking on Roane County and Greater Beckley Christian.
Coach Gray is hopeful what lies ahead will help prepare his team for a postseason run.
“When we got to states last year, I didn’t get the same feeling I had during the season,” coach Gray said. “It’s the big picture and all this publicity and stuff and it kind of got to us a little bit. We also played a really good team in Ravenswood.
“We made our schedule this year so we go to some big venues and play. We’re trying to expose our kids to some better teams before we get there. We have Greater Beckley coming to our place in a couple weeks. That experience of getting there was big and now we know what to expect when we get there, so hopefully we’ll get back and show up.”