RIPLEY - The 2013-14 basketball season was full of questions early on for Ripley High boys basketball coach Craig Harmon. The squad had graduated a pair of guards in Casy Smith and Jacob Haynes. Senior wing-men Drew Harpold and Kade Harrison returned with sophomore post presence Luke Layhew. Two guards would have to be replaced and help would come in the form of freshman Jamison Hunt and junior Justin McKown.

Hunt, who played shooting guard in middle school would win the point guard nod. McKown, a defensive minded player who has shown a knack for finding loose balls and frustrating opposing scorers would find his way onto the floor.

After all, the Viking offense would go through All MSAC selection Kade Harrison. The 6-foot-3 slashing scorer had become Ripley’s all time and season leader in blocked shots and finished his career at No. 9 on the Vikings all time scoring list while getting his 1000th point this season.

Harrison recognized that he had help around him this season. He began turning in eight and nine assist games while making some incredible passes to open teammates. While Harrison is known for his high-flying offensive game, many of his highlights involved a great dish to a teammate in the open court.
“I had a great time with the younger players this year,” said Harrison. “I am proud of how hard we fought and how we came together as a team.”

The Vikings doubled their win total from the 2012-13 squad by posting an (8-16) campaign.
“If this group of players continue their work in the weight room I think they have bright basketball futures. They need to get stronger and keep their positive attitudes. I enjoyed coaching this team and my seniors Kade Harrison, Drew Harpold and Jared Wendell,” said Harmon.

Four of those victories came against Mountain State Athletic Conference foes Cabell Midland, Nitro, Parkersburg and Riverside (sectional).

Ripley swept cross county rival Ravenswood in two matchups and defeated Pike (KY) and Shady Spring.
Ripley averaged 57.5 points per game while allowing 65.1. Ripley shot at a 43% clip while allowing opponents to shoot at the exact same mark. The squad pulled down 732 rebounds this season in an area that showed drastic improvements for the team, particularly on the offensive boards (206). One glaring, shining improvement was in turnovers. Ripley committed 379 compared to their opponents 364. The blue and white hit at a 61% clip from the charity stripe in 2013-14.

On the floor, talented young players found playing time like 6-foot-4 freshman Chase Johnson and Dylan Hall.
One player shined with poise and composure, even when things didn’t go his way in early games. Freshman point guard Jamison Hunt was literally thrown to the wolves due to a need that had to be filled on the squad. Hunt handled the pressure and produced 12 ppg, five assists and two steals per contest while shouldering the pressure of being the team quarterback. Hunt, the son of assistant coach Steve Hunt, displayed a high hoops IQ and a relentless motor on the hardwood.

Tyler Hill returned to the squad as a dedicated assistant coach and Reggie Giles, a former Marshall University product, brought valuable experience and knowledge to the Viking coaching staff this season.

Statistical Leaders: For the season, Harrison averaged 14 points, five boards, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot per game. Luke Layhew scored 11 points per game, eight rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game and snagged a steal per contest. Harpold averaged 7.2, three rebounds, a steal and two assists per game. McKown netted 4.2 points and four rebounds.

In a nutshell, it was a step forward for Ripley basketball. The Vikings will suffer the losses of starters Harrison and Harpold. Like this season, the Vikings will replace two starters. The luxury of having Johnson and Layhew on the floor at the same time will certainly be a positive in 2014-15. Both players are imposing figures in the paint as both players have exceptional wing spans and are athletic enough to force many teams to settle for jump shots as opposed to challenging the trees inside.

Phil’s notebook: Coach Harmon announced his retirement on Tuesday. (see front page) His official retirement is pending via a Jackson County Board of Education session tonight.