West Shamokin's Jack McCullough (above) scores off an assist from Trevor Smulik during the first quarter of the Wolves' victory over the Indiana Little Indians on Monday. McCullough and Smulik were two of the three West Shamokin players to reach double-figures scoring in the winning performance.
By Joe Rhoades
Rural Valley, Pa -- The season didn’t start when the West Shamokin boys varsity basketball team had expected, but it began how the team had hoped on Monday, as the Wolves made quick work of the Indiana Little Indians at home in a cross-district bout, 56-23.
“We feel blessed to be back in the gym. To get these kids competing and have so much doubt going into this season, whether we would play or not — we’re excited about that,” West Shamokin head coach Judd McCullough said. “We got to play tonight and we got the win.”
McCullough’s team jumped out to a 27-6 lead after the first eight minutes of play, thanks to 15 points from junior Trevor Smulik and a defense that forced six turnovers over that span. The contest began with the teams tied at 3-all, but the Wolves finished the quarter on a 24-3 run that Indiana never recovered from.
West Shamokin’s overwhelming defense didn’t slow in the second quarter, all while the offense continued it’s torrid pace.
The Wolves outpaced the Little Indians to the tune of 15-4 in the second quarter. The inside-outside duo of Smulik and fellow senior Ezeck Olinger led the way in the dominant second frame, finishing the half with 19 and 12 points respectively.
Rust and lack of playing time did rear its ugly head in the third quarter as the little Indians outscored West Shamokin for the only time all night. The indians put nine points on the board during the stretch, including the first four points coming out of the locker room.
Still, McCullough admitted that the good and bad will be a part of this early schedule as his team finds its footing in what is strangest start to a season he has experienced during his tenure as Wolves’ coach.
“All of the teams playing right now are under the same situation. Everyone is coming in with a very non-existent offseason. It’s been a start-stop, start-stop beginning to the season, so we expected an ugly brand of basketball at times — until guys get their conditioning and routine up-to-speed,” McCullough said.
The Wolves returned to form in the final quarter, limiting Indiana to just four points, this while emptying the bench and allowing the team to get a look some of its younger and inexperienced players.
West Shamokin’s swarming defense did not allow an Indiana scorer to register more than five points, a feat accomplished by Trevor Todd and Evan Brocious.
The Little Indians’ defense allowed the Wolves to place three scorers in double figures, including Smulik (19), Olinger (12), and senior Jack McCullough (10). Point guard Bo Swartz chipped in nine points in the winning effort for the Wolves.
“I think overall — we executed and shared the ball well. Those are things you like to see coming into a game like this,” McCullough said “There were other times that we were sloppy and we got away from what was working and we hope to clean some of that stuff up as the season goes on.”
The Wolves were without starting forward Justin Smulik, who led the team in rebounds a season ago as a junior. McCullough described the sharp-shooting lefty’s status as “day-to-day."
West Shamokin welcomes Blairsville on Wednesday to begin Heritage Conference play, with both junior varsity and varsity action to take place.
“I was really proud of them. A lot of the things we preach all the time are things we did well. Was it a perfect or clean game — by no means was it,” McCullough said. “We have five or six guys out on the court who could score 20 any night, so to see them play so unselfishly, guys who are alpha dogs share the ball so well is a great sight."
To watch the complete re-broadcast of West Shamokin's 56-23 win over Indiana, click the link below: