SHINNSTON, W.Va. — It’s been only three months since Webster County wrapped up the first 28-0 season for a boys basketball team in West Virginia.
The Highlanders secured their lone team state championship in school history, rallying from a nine-point halftime deficit to defeat Parkersburg Catholic in the Class A title game, 47-40.
Coach Michael Gray hasn’t had much time to reflect on all the Highlanders were able to accomplish, though he believes he will in the near future.
“It’s just been so busy,” he said. “We went from the state title game and doing all these things with parades to the North-South game and right into coaching this group.
“I really haven’t had time to kind of slow down and think about it. That’ll probably be in July during a little vacation time with my kid.”
Although the memories of the unbeaten season and improbable ride have hardly faded, the Highlanders are a new-look team to say the least.
All five starters and the team’s top six scorers were seniors, while seven seniors combined to score 77 of the Highlanders’ 82 points per game.
“We’re young and we have to realize that,” Webster coach Michael Gray said. “But that senior group made this group of kids a lot stronger last year in practice. This group practiced our senior group pretty hard and they competed well with them.
“The experience from last year should help this group down the road this year.”
Gray got a better look at his team over the weekend when the Highlanders played games against Buckhannon-Upshur, South Harrison and Greenbrier West at Lincoln’s Cougar Shootout.
He’ll be able to discover more by the end of June as Webster County is slated to play in Wheeling Central’s shootout to conclude the three-week period.
“We just have to be patient with this group,” Gray said. “We have a lot of expectations in the community with what we did last year.
“We’re not very big, but we are athletic. We have a lot of heart. The kids will come along here in the next couple weeks.”
In addition to the scoring void left behind from a senior class that featured first-team all-state guards Dorian Groggs (20 ppg) and Gray’s son, Tyler Gray (16 ppg), the Highlanders won’t have as much height or length next season.
Starters Cole Taylor and Drew Holcomb both stood 6-foot-4 and the wingspan of each enabled Webster to have consistent success with an extended 2-3 zone defense.
“We have a young group and we’re learning. A lot of mistakes to overcome, but some kids shoot the ball really well,” coach Gray said. “I think we can score.
“I worry about our height. We’re not going to show a lot right now. We may be a team in the season where we get after the ball a little bit more than what we did last year. We laid in that zone with that length we had and it was successful. We have to find our identity right now and I don’t know if it’s the same identity we had last year.”