Things looked bleak when the season started.
Before Ripley’s varsity basketball team ever got out of the gates, there was the issue with the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder – Ty Johnson – being going for an extended period of time due to a broken hand.
And before the Vikings of 2018-19 could blink, their season record stood at 0-3.
But thanks to the positive vibe and hard work by first-year head coach Luke Parsons and his able staff of Derek Mullins and Steve Hunt, the Vikings persevered and would go on to finish the season with a 12-10 record.
While they fell short of their goal of reaching the State Tournament with a loss to Parkersburg South in a sectional opener, the Viking program grew in a number of ways and the future appears bright.
“Our season went very well,” said Parsons. “We won 12 games and of our 10 losses, six of them were by single digits. We were right there in every game. Our kids have to understand that every possession counts.”
Among Ripley’s 12 wins was a decision over state-ranked Wheeling Park. The Vikings won that game after being down 16-0 to start.
Ripley also went toe-to-toe with at the time state-ranked Spring Valley.
The Vikings lost regular season encounters to South and sectional rival Parkersburg.
Park, Spring Valley, South and Parkersburg will all be gunning for State Tournament berths tonight (Tuesday). Three of the four could go as Spring Valley entertains South.
Parsons praised his group of seniors for their hard work and leadership throughout his first season.
“These seniors were great,” Parsons said. “Their attitude was tremendous throughout the season.”
One of those seniors was Isaac Putnam, who in his only season as a Viking led the team in scoring (for all 22 games) with an average of 15.3 per game.
“He is a transfer who moved in here from Virginia,” Parsons said. “Isaac coming in was a true blessing. We didn’t know it at the time. I got a phone call last May from his father and they were moving to Ripley and said he had a son who played basketball.
“He was here for all of our offseason workouts. He is a great kid and with Ty getting hurt early, he (Putnam) stepped up in the role that we expected Ty to have. He became our guy that we looked to inside early in the season.”
Besides scoring, Putnam pulled down 5.2 rebounds a game and came away with 2.4 steals.
Isaiah Riffe scored at a 7.9 points per game clip for the Vikings in his last season with the royal blue and white and also dished out 3.1 assists. “He became that player where whatever we needed him to do, he would and could do it,” Parsons said. “He could play inside and he could also play guard when we needed him to.”
Caydan Keeler, a Class AAA First Team All-State football lineman, also was a pleasant surprise for the Vikings.
“He is a great kid and leader,” said Parsons of Keeler, who is bound for the University of Charleston to continue his football playing days. “He had experience with success from football season so we leaned on him for that experience. He would come off the bench and give us instant productivity.”
Timmy Wickersham averaged 2.3 points while seeing action in 21 games for the Vikings. “He is just a great kid with an awesome attitude,” said Parsons. “He came into practice and gave it everything he had. When he did get into the games he gave us good productivity, especially on the offensive end.”
Isaac Blankenship averaged 2.4 a contest in 17 games. “He is also a great kid with a great attitude,” Parsons said. “He is always laughing and having a great time.”
When Johnson returned to the team he played like a man possessed. He averaged 16.5 (in 12 games) for the Vikings in his junior season. He also pulled down 7.7 rebounds a game, had 31 blocks and 15 steals.
Fellow junior Tobias Scholl averaged 8.5 in his junior year.
Another junior – Isaac Robertson – received playing time in all 22 games and scored 3.9 each night out.
Junior Jacob Fouty scored 2.8 in all 22 games.
Carter Casto and Kai Greely-Fay are two other juniors who will be back next season.
Sophomores in the program this season were Kaeden Profitt, Shane Bumpus, Kadin Hall, Logan Hash, Cayden Adkins and Sammy Carpenter.
As a team this season, Ripley averaged 56.6 points per game and gave up 51.6.
The Vikings shot 52 percent from 2-point range and were 35 percent from the 3-point line by hitting 112-of-320 attempts.
At the free throw line Ripley was 267-of-412 for a shooting percentage of 65 percent.