RIPLEY – The 2012-'13 Ripley High Basketball squad of head coach Craig Harmon put a lid on their season last week after dropping a Region 3 Sectional contest to the cougars of Capital High School.
The Vikings managed to squeeze out seven wins (7-16 MSAC 2-13) which was an improvement over last season's two win campaign. While the team was in several of those losses, often leading in the second half, they were unable to get over the hump and to borrow a phrase from the sales profession, "close the deal."
The Vikings were led by a trio of seniors in shooting guard Casy Smith, point guard Jacob Haynes and post man Chuck Sleboda. The duo of juniors Kade Harrison and Drew Harpold rounded out the lion's share of started contests for the blue and white.
The Vikings kicked off their season by ousting a solid Point Pleasant team on their hardwood, 47-37.
Ripley went on to lose six of their next seven games as they landed in the heart of their Mountain State Athletic Conference schedule, beating only a Cabell Midland squad in that span that was once thought to be an intriguing team in the MSAC but were exposed later in the season and only won seven games themselves.
The Vikings, a perimeter shooting team running mostly a traditional pick and roll style offense with a few modern twists were at their best when they played within their strengths and resisted the temptation to try to run the floor with more athletic teams. The Vikings lived and died by their perimeter shooting and more often than not, were unable to have more than one player on a given night blister the nets.
Ripley has found victories scarce since the "Chase Fischer Era" of 2007-2011 when the Vikings went (57-37) but have plummeted to (9-37) since the Parade All-American and West Virginia Basketball Player of the Year graduated to a career at Wake Forest University.
The Vikings have benefited from the youthful input of new assistant coaches A.J Cooper and Tyler Hill. Cooper was even chosen by Austin Parsons and Cody Sanders on "Teacher Appreciation Night" as a teacher who has influenced their life in a positive manner, a coaching virtue that is often forgotten.
For Ripley, the team played solid defense all season and much of that is due to defensive minded assistant coach Steve Hunt, who along with Harmon preach a defensive presence for their squad.
The Vikings simply couldn't score enough points to compete night after night. Ripley averaged 53.9 points per game and hit the 70-point mark only twice. Coincidentally both were victories for Ripley. A 71-70 win over Mingo Central and a 75-66 MSAC win over Spring Valley.
This season, the Vikes were led in scoring by junior wing-man Kade Harrison. Harrison averaged 16.2 points per game and set Ripley's single season and career shot blocking records. Harrison notched a devastating 34 blocks during 2012-'13 while grabbing 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
Smith averaged 14.2 PPG in his senior campaign while grabbing 3.5 rebounds and dishing out 1.6 assists per contest.
Haynes took on the point guard role for the team and found himself finishing in the West Virginia AAA top 10 in assists while racking up 4.2 per contest and adding 2.6 steals per game. He averaged 6.7 points per game.
Sleboda averaged 7.3 points and six boards per game from his post-position this season. Seniors Cody Sanders and Austin Parson each contributed 1.0 PPG but provided defensive help at pivotal times throughout the season.
Junior Drew Harpold, who will be expected to take on a larger role next season in the scoring and rebounding departments, averaged 5.8 PPG and 3.8 rebounds per game. Harpold also dished out 1.5 assists per contest and showed a mature approach to shot selection. You rarely, if ever saw Harpold throwing up a circus shot in a pool defenders in the paint.
Next season, there will be a new cast of Viking netters on the floor with Harrison and Harpold. Frosh Luke Layhew received quality minutes this season and the 6-4 multi-sport athlete will take the reigns from Sleboda next season. Underclassman Dylan Hall showed a natural ability to score for Ripley when given the chance and Morgan Graves showed a nice deep ball (3-pointer). Justin McKown and Cody Bailey each provided promise in limited varsity action.
The Vikings also have young talent coming up the pipeline from coach Luke Parson's frosh squad and coach Mark Wayne's 2012-'13 Mid Valley Athletic Conference Championship Team. This same team was conference runner up in 2011-'12.
There is talent in the pool of youngsters swimming their way to varsity action. It will be a pleasure to observe their progress and see what future Viking stars rise to the top and help lift the program.