RIPLEY – It was a season of ups and downs for the Ripley Vikings in 2014-15. When the season began, first year head coach Evan Faulkner talked of changing the culture of Ripley basketball. Suffice to say, from the opening tip of the first game of the season at Point Pleasant, the change in the program was evident.
There was not only a renewed energy, but also a sense of confidence that permeated throughout the program in 2014-15 that led to a 12-10 record–a four win improvement from their 8-14 2013-14 record. However, like last season, the Vikings fell in the opening round of sectional play against Riverside.
The heartbreaking 52-51 loss–a game in which the Vikings were in control for large portions–will no doubt serve as motivation heading into the offseason. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Ripley Vikings’ 2014-15 season by the numbers.
FINAL RECORD: 12-10
After the season opening, 67-50 win at Point Pleasant, the Vikings jumped headfirst into their MSAC schedule. They learned quickly just how daunting the MSAC can be, as they dropped their first two conference games to Winfield and Nitro. They bounced back quickly over the Christmas holiday, winning the Brooke Holiday Tournament by defeating Brooke Point and Brooke.
Back from the holiday break, the Vikings dispatched Cabell Midland before meeting with two of their tougher opponents they would face all season in the 2014 Class AAA runner up Hurricane and champion Huntington. The Vikes dropped both games, but were competitive throughout.
The Vikings were very solid in the half court all year long, but they struggled with pressure and turnovers as well. As they made their way through the middle part of the season, teams began to exploit that weakness. After bouncing back with another win over Pt. Pleasant at home and a tough win over St. Albans on the road, the Vikings once again faced a daunting stretch. They faced then #1 South Charleston on the road, and even held a first half advantage before falling to the Black Eagle pressure in the second half for a loss.
They followed that up with an excellent three game stretch, defeating Spring Valley at home, rival Ravenswood on the road, and Princeton at home for a three game winning streak. However, in their next key three game stretch against sectional opponents, the Vikes were unable to follow up on those victories.
They dropped close contests to George Washington at home, Capital on the road, and Riverside at home before putting together what was probably their best all around performance under the bright lights of the Charleston Civic Center against Class AA #4 Westside.
The Vikings dominated the Renegades in a 55-36 victory that gave Ripley some momentum headed into the final stretch of the season. In that final stretch, the Vikes took two of their last three. They dropped a heartbreaker at Parkersburg 63-60 in 3OT, swept the season series with Ravenswood after a 56-44 home win, and defeated Huntington St. Joe after a long layoff due to the snow storm. The regular season amounted to a #5 seed in the Sectional Tournament for the Vikings, where they lost the aforementioned contest at Riverside in painful fashion, 52-51 to end their season at 12-10.
A trio of underclassmen led Ripley in 2015. Sophomore Chase Johnson enjoyed a breakout season, averaging 18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Johnson did it all for the Vikings, patrolling the low block and high post for the Ripley offense, and also protecting the rim with blocks and rebounds on the defensive end.
The Vikings’ other twin tower, junior Luke Layhew, averaged 14.7 points per game, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks on the year. Sophomore point guard Jamison Hunt also enjoyed a spectacular campaign, averaging 13.7 points and 7.2 assists per game running the Viking offense. Ripley’s supporting cast provided experience and solid play all season long.
Seniors Justin McKown and Dylan Hall served as stabilizing forces for the Vikes, providing great energy on defense and supplemental scoring on the offensive end. McKown averaged 3.4 points per game, while Hall averaged 1.6 PPG and 2.4 rebounds.
Elsewhere, senior Morgan Graves, sophomore Eli Casto, and junior Logan McKinney were threats from long range for Ripley. Graves averaged 1.4 PPG, and shot 54% (6 of 11) from three point land on the year, Casto averaged 2.6 ppg and shot 48% (13 of 27) from three, and McKinney averaged 2.3 ppg on the year. Sophomore Nathan Hall provided muscle and physicality off the bench, averaging 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Rounding out the Viking attack: senior Jack Victory scored two points; sophomore Elijah Riffe scored 13 points; sophomore Lane Casto finished with 20 minutes of varsity action and junior Jeff Gibbs scored four points on the year.