INSTITUTE, W.Va. — Three and-a-half months have passed since a successful season ended in heartbreaking fashion for Logan’s boys basketball team when Scott’s Reece Carden beat the buzzer to give the Skyhawks a 65-63 win against the Wildcats in a Class AAA quarterfinal.
Considering Logan entered the contest as the No. 2 seed in Class AAA and with three lopsided wins against Scott earlier in the season, it was an ending the Wildcats never envisioned.
“It hasn’t left my mind since we lost,” said Logan head coach Zach Green, a Scott graduate. “We don’t want to focus on the past, but it’s something we’re not going to forget. I can promise you, when the ball tips against Scott in the regular season, those guys aren’t going to forget what happened at the state tournament.
“Looking at the big picture, we have four starters back. That was invaluable experience. Even though we lost, to be in that situation gave us a huge building block going into this season.”
LHS is anything but short on motivation this summer after bowing out in its state tournament opener to finish 23-3.
The good news, as Green alluded to, is the core of the team remains intact. Each of Logan’s four double-figure scorers in the season-ending setback — guards Scotty Browning and Garrett Williamson and forwards Aiden Slack and Jaxon Cogar — enters their senior season.
The latter three are football players, meaning they had to balance being on the gridiron and hardwood over the three-week period. Logan was rather busy for those three weeks and participated in team camps at Marshall, University of Charleston, University of Pikeville (Ky.) and Georgetown College (Ky.), in addition to playing three games last Thursday at the Red & Black Athletic Club Shootout hosted by St. Albans at West Virginia State.
“We try to focus on skill development the most,” Green said. “Getting better as players, from top to bottom, is what we try to do during the three-week period. That, and we really try to play a lot of tough competition. We played 23 games, so we played a full season schedule in about a month, and it’s been really good for our guys.
“We have a bunch of guys playing football and baseball and it’s given our younger guys and role guys an opportunity to get a lot of playing time, and put them in a lot of different situations that I think is going to benefit us in the long run.”
Adding depth to where Green is more comfortable utilizing reserves in critical situations has been a primary focus of the Wildcats’ coach. In the season-ending loss to Scott, Cogar, Williamson, Slack and Browning combined for all but six of the Wildcats’ points, while then-senior Jackson Tackett had a team-high 11 rebounds.
“Evaluating last season, as the season went on we thought that our bench wasn’t as strong as we want it to be,” Green said. “We really wanted to focus this summer on putting those guys in a lot of bigger roles and situations to try and help them grow, and we’ve seen a lot of growth.”
Additionally, Green wanted his team to face quality competition, something the Wildcats certainly did in the event at WVSU by facing defending Class AAAA runner-up Parkersburg South, defending Class AAA runner-up Shady Spring and Winfield.
“I don’t think you’re going to get better if you’re not playing guys who are going to challenge you,” Green said. “If you’re going out and beating teams by 30, you’re wasting everybody’s time. Being here, especially while we’re down guys, it really challenges our younger guys and puts them in tough spots. It’s been great for us.”
The Wildcats did have Browning and Williamson on hand at WVSU. The 5-foot-11 Browning is a returning first-team all-state guard who averaged just north of 15 points last season, while Williamson, at 6-3, was a second-team all-state pick as a junior.
“There is a solid foundation led by Garrett Williamson and Scottie Browning, who are not only tremendous players, but they’re tremendous young men and they’re tremendous leaders for us,” Green said. “They kind of set the tone in everything that we do. We’ve had great attendance out of those two guys for four years. They show up and work hard.
“What they’re also great at, they’re going to put guys in their place. If our young guys aren’t where they’re supposed to be, Garrett Williamson is going to tell them where they need to be. He’s our leader. Scottie’s done a much better job being vocal this offseason and that’s a role that he’s kind of growing into. We’re excited.”