Clay Battelle, Local Sports, Sports

Slow start leads to gut check as Cee-Bees win section semifinal over Wood County

BLACKSVILLE — Despite half a year’s worth of practices and nearly two dozen games, Clay-Battelle boys basketball coach Josh Kisner believes his team’s real 2023-24 season actually began Wednesday night, as the top-seeded Cee-Bees hosted No. 4 Wood County Christian in the a Class A Region 1 Section 2 semifinal.

And as if to prove his point, the 8-13 Wildcats — losers by 41 points to CB earlier in the year — roared out to a rather astonishing 11-2 first-quarter lead.

However, it is also true that talent, size, conditioning, experience and a calmness that follows success usually prevails, and all those hard months of work prepared the Cee-Bees to respond — and they did that and then some, outscoring WCC 71-16 the rest of the way to post an eventually comfortable, 73-27 victory.

It might’ve been that previous easy win, accumulated rust from an eight-day gap between games, or Wood Country Christian’s smart slow-down strategy to start the game, or maybe all three: whatever the reason, the Cee-Bees (18-5) began with three straight turnovers and a poor quick shot. By the time the clock turned to 4:21 left in the quarter, CB trailed 11-2, prompting a Kisner timeout.

“I got after them a little bit,” he smiled after the game. “Just reminded them that they had to go out and play hard, that from here on out, things get tough because teams are playing to stay alive. And I reminded them that we play best when we play with tempo.”

Message received, as CB forward Preston Luzader attacked the rim for an and-one three-point play, then blocked a shot, picked up the loose ball, and fed guard JC Spears for a fast break lay-up to get the Cee-Bee faithful into the game. By quarter’s end, the score was tied at 18-18 and, unbeknownst to the Wildcats, the game was about to be taken over and taken away, mostly by the Cee-Bee’s defense and their all-atate forward Colby Barr.

With a pair of swished threes, a stick-back offensive rebound basket and a foul shot, the senior quickly outscored WCC 9-2 midway through the quarter, and when Spears nailed a late triple, that 11-2 deficit had – thanks to CB’s 16-3 second quarter, morphed into a 34-21 halftime lead.

It was Barr again in the third, along with that sharp CB defensive pressure, solid rebounding, and deadly transition game, that allowed the Cee-Bees to establish complete control. Barr scored 16 in the quarter on his way to a game-high 33, and WCC could only manage a single field goal while surrendering 26 points. Clay-Battelle’s subs even limited the Wildcats to four points in the final quarter, as Kisner took advantage of the big lead to rest his starters.

Alongside Barr’s big night, Spears scored 14 and Luzader scored 11 despite tweaking an ankle in the third.

After the game, Kisner was happy with his team’s response, as well as the valuable lesson learned.

“I told them all week that it’s March Madness time,” he insisted. “But talking doesn’t work nearly as well as having a hungry team with a good gameplan come out and play better than you for a while. It was a gut check for us, and a reminder that we have to go with our strength, which is playing an up-tempo style.

“We got to our game eventually,” he continued, “and in the end, we guaranteed ourselves two more games, which was our goal. We just need to come out ready to get off to a faster start and keep executing our offense. Doddridge County (which beat Tyler Consolidated to move on to the sectional final) will be a dogfight for sure, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Clay-Battelle hosts the Sectional Championship game against Doddridge County Friday night, tip scheduled for 7 p.m.

BY MARK SCHRAF/For The Dominion Post

Clay-Battelle 73, Wood County Christian 27
WCC       18     3      2    4   –  27
CB           18    16   26   13  – 73
WOOD COUNTY CHRISTIAN (8-14) — Luke Davis 0 2-2 2; JJ Dimit 2 0-0 5; Brendan Greene 1 0-0 2; Eli Christman 3 0-0 7; Owen Allman 2 2-2 6; Braeyn Joseph 2 0-0 4; Landon Dunn  0 1-2 1. Totals 10 5-6 27.
CLAY-BATTELLE (18-5) — Josiah Morgan 2 0-0 5; JC Spears 6 0-0 14; Braden Ponceroff 1 1-2 3; Brock White 0 1-2 1; Cayden Moats 1 0-0 2;  Cooper Payton 2 0-0 4; Colby Barr 11 8-10 33; Preston Luzader 3 5-5 11. Totals 26 15-19 73.
3-Pt. Goals – WCC 2 (Dimit, Christman). CB 6 (Barr 3, Spears 2, Morgan).