RIPLEY - Ripley High basketball coach Craig Harmon had a busy and fulfilling week. His blue and white squad notched victories over Spring Valley, Ravenswood and Mingo Central while going 3-0 over that four-day stretch.
In the 75-66 win over Spring Valley, the Vikes avenged years of frustration against a Mountain State Athletic Conference team that has had the Blue Crew's number.
At the Williamson Fieldhouse against Mingo Central, Harmon tasted a 71-70 victory on Saturday as senior guard Casy Smith scored 30 and hit the game-winning 3-pointer as time ran out.
The veteran coach, in his 22nd as the Viking skipper, spent his early years growing up in Mingo County before moving to Ravenswood. In appreciation of Harmon, he was presented with a Mingo Central hat.
The sweetest victory for the former Red Devil hoopster came sandwiched in the middle. It was a 55-33 victory over Ripley's cross county rival Ravenswood.
After the Ravenswood win on Friday, coach Harmon said it was all about his young men.
"We have a chance to win three this week and I am excited but I really want these young men to enjoy it. They have put in the work. They came out tonight (Ravenswood game) and executed the gameplan. Ravenswood played hard too and they deserve a lot of credit."
The Ripley Health Center was roaring as Ravenswood brought tremendous support in the form of sheer numbers. The Red Devil's had a healthy student section on hand and Ripley's was as loud as ever.
The cheerleading squads perched at each end of the court. The stage was set for serious Jackson County basketball and the teams and coaches didn't disappoint as strategy and chess moves were abound. The rival teams split last year's meetings with each home team taking a victory.
Ravenswood (3-9) has given their fans 19 straight winning seasons and a pair of State Championships.
The Devils were playing without (2) starters who are no longer on the team for undisclosed reasons. One was the team's leading rebounder and shot blocker.
As is his style, Coach Price made no excuses and prepared for Ripley with the capable student athletes he had on the floor.
"Our young men gave me all they had and we fought hard out there. I am proud of how we responded. We have to learn from this experience and move on to our next opponent and remain focused on our team goals."
Ripley point guard Jacob Haynes kicked off the game by drilling two 3-point goals in less than a minute and the Vikings took a quick 8-1 lead. Casy Smith and Kade Harrison contributed four points each in the opening quarter.
Red Devil Jake Martin made a tough shot under the bucket on a post move near the baseline. Martin dropped in five points in the first as the Red Devils trailed, 19-9.
The Red Devils put the clamps on the Viking guards in the second period. Ravenswood raised their intensity on their man to man defense after a timeout where coach Price re-established the red and black's gameplan.
Ravenswood took the second period as they outscored the Vikings 9-6 in the quarter. Ripley took a 25-18 lead into the half.
It definitely appeared that Ravenswood was trying to shadow Kade Harrison and force the Viking guards to knock down shots from the perimeter.
"We played really well defensively at times but in the end we couldn't knock down shots when we needed to. We did not shoot well," said Price.
Ravenswood only hit 28% (10-of-36) from the floor on the night putting even more pressure on their defensive effort.
For Ripley (5-8), the third period was one of missed opportunities on easy buckets under the basket. Both teams shot a paltry 36% in an ugly quarter that contained 11 total turnovers. Red Devil wing-man Heath Burgess showed some aggressive textbook "box out" techniques under the basket and scored via offensive rebound.
Throughout the game, Ripley gave Jake Martin some extra defensive attention in their rotation, which showed the Vikings respect for the scorer, who hit for 32 points earlier in the season.
With Ripley leading 38-28 going into the fourth period, the Blue and White put their foot on the gas and went on a 17-5 run that saw them flex their muscles a bit.
Viking senior guard Cody Sanders has been a defensive specialist of late and his importance at various spots in the game were invaluable.
The Vikings spread out and Chuck Sleboda, Harrison, Haynes, Smith, Drew Harpold and freshman Luke Layhew contributed buckets down the stretch.
It wasn't the best night for Ripley's leading scorer Kade Harrison but he contributed in other ways through penetrating and dishing off for three assists to his teammates with two coming in the final quarter.
While Jake Martin deservedly gets his share of attention from opposing defenses, Red Devil underclassmen like Dalton Gandee, Jon Crow, Jacob Barr, Dylan Radabaugh, Matt Peery and Heath Burgess prove that the future of Red Devil basketball is in good hands and they played to the final buzzer.
In the end, the Vikings leaned on their backcourt and they came through for Ripley on this night. The Red Devils appeared to be shooting at a basket with a lid on it all evening.
The Red Devils shot a stifling 10% from trey (1-of-10) and dished out only five assists as a team.
The Vikings dominated the boards 42-25. Ripley committed 20 turnovers to Ravenswood's 24.
Ripley assistant coach Steve Hunt was naturally pleased after the game.
"I was concerned about how we would respond after we lost a heartbreaker at Saint Albans. I am pleased at the effort and the way we have practiced. I am just really happy for them (team) right now."
Ripley guard Jacob Haynes, who scored 14 and had five steals and four assists was all smiles after the game.
"We had good ball movement tonight and as a point guard I have to get my teammates involved and I have to knock down my shots too. It was a physical game and I always look forward to playing Ravenswood," said Haynes.
For Ripley, Haynes and Casy Smith led the way with 14, Harrison 11, Drew Harpold had four and 11 boards, Sleboda had eight and seven boards, Luke Layhew had had a bucket and five boards and Austin Parsons contributed a bucket and four rebounds.
For Ravenswood, Jake Martin led the way with 10 points and three steals, Heath Burgess netted seven and five boards, Dylan Radabaugh and Jon Crow five, Dalton Gandee four and Jacob Barr two.