ST. MARYS, W.Va. -No. 1 St. Marys will put its 23-1 record on the line at 5:30 p.m. today in the Class A state quarterfinals inside the Charleston Civic Center when the Blue Devils mix it up with No. 8 Pocahontas County (14-11).
The Warriors of veteran head coach Bob Sheets aren't afraid to let the roundball fly from beyond the arc as evidenced by their near 700 attempts this season from 3-point land.
"Let me tell you, we compare them right off the bat to playing Williamstown, a lot of dribble, drive and pitch," said St. Marys head coach Mark Barnhart. "When we watched the film, they are just like Williamstown. They are going to put the three up.
JEFF BAUGHAN Special to The Times
St. Marys’ K.D. Arnett (14) goes up for a shot against a Bishop Donahue opponent during a West Virginia Class A regional game at St. Marys. The Blue Devils gained a berth in the West Virginia Class A State Tournament with a 70-57 victory, and are scheduled to play Pocahontas in a Class A quarterfinal in Charleston today.
JEFF BAUGHAN Special to The Times
St. Marys Derek Bayless leaps at the basket during a West Virginia Class A regional game at St. Marys. The Blue Devils gained a berth in the West Virginia Class A State Tournament with a 70-57 victory.
"We feel like playing Williamstown has prepared us for this game as much as anything. We feel what we have to concentrate on is a lot of long rebounds. We have to be prepared for that."
Four players have hit 42 or more treys for the Warriors - Skylar Knisely, Jed Sheets, Steven Halterman and Dillon Kelly. Kelly, who leads the squad with 52 made triples, is also shooting 55 percent from inside the arc.
"You hear that quite frankly," Sheets said when asked whether he was worried about his team shooting well from downtown with Charleston being known for not always being kind to outside shooting teams. "I think that's sort of ex post facto to blame it on the rim. On the other hand, I've seen players go down there and do very well.
"The ball is in your hand and you've got the last touch on that thing. If you shoot it with confidence it's going to take care of itself. Quite frankly, some people really do shoot well there."
Kelly leads the team in scoring with an average of better than 18 a game while Sheets (14.9), Halterman (10.6) and Knisely (7.8) follow. Junior guard Tyler Davis is the Warriors' other expected starter, but he didn't make his first start of the year until the regional.
St. Marys is expected to counter with the dynamic duo of point guard Derek Renner (17.1 ppg) and forward K.D. Arnett (17.4). The other probable starters for the Blue Devils are Andrew Cosper (11.2), Garrett Wichterman (10.0) and Justin Nichols (6.3).
"We've been able to take a look at them through film and they are very impressive and put up a lot of points," said Sheets, who doesn't plan on trying to play a slow-down affair. "They are heavily laden on the senior side and we are too.
"We rely a little more on the 3-ball. St. Marys can shoot it and hit it, but we do it a little bit more than other clubs do. It's something I've got confidence in these kids' ability to do it."
Coach Barnhart had his team at Marietta College for Tuesday's practice, which is also something they did when they made the state tournament in 2009.
Coach Barnhart wanted his team to have a different feel by practicing on a bigger court with different acoustics.
Also, St. Marys might have a slight advantage in that the Blue Devils faced Wirt County earlier this year in Charleston during the Hoops Classic.
"We feel like we have to defend like crazy, box out and be ready for that long rebound," Barnhart added. "You never know what you are going to face (from your opponent).
"They don't really run the ball, but they don't slow it down either. As we know, you take nothing for granted at this time of the year, except you can take nothing for granted."