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Game Recap: West Shamokin 58, Northern Cambria 30

By Josh Shreckengost

West Shamokin senior guard Justin Smulik (3) is fouled as he hits a lay-up in the first quarter of the Wolves' 58-30 victory over Northern Cambria on Thursday night. Smulik, who missed the first six games of the season with a knee injury, provided a spark for West Shamokin with 13 points and helped the Wolves (7-0) stay perfect on the season.

Rural Valley, Pa. — With each passing game, the West Shamokin boys varsity basketball team continues to distinguish itself as the class of the Heritage Conference. Following a 14-point road win over Marion Center on Saturday, the Wolves returned home Monday night and led wire-to-wire in a dominant win over visiting Northern Cambria, 58-30. The victory raised West Shamokin's season record to 7-0 and displayed all the hallmarks why the Wolves are rounding into an extremely special team in 2021.

"We never want to be satisfied," West Shamokin head coach Judd McCullough said. "I told the guys that we wanted to be grateful and appreciate the guys in the locker room who have gotten us to this point, all that hard work that has gone into this moment to get us to 7-0."

West Shamokin played stifling defense from the opening tip and never allowed Northern Cambria to find an offensive rhythm. The Wolves held the Colts without a field goal in the first quarter of play and opened up a 17-1 lead midway through the second quarter before Northern Cambria recorded its first field goal.

"We knew we'd be a good offensive team or have potential to do that and I told the guys that if we sold out on the defensive side of things and had that competitive hunger each and every game then that's when we'd have the chance to become a special team," McCullough said. "I think you're seeing at least some examples of that here in the early season."

The Wolves held the Colts to single digit scoring in the first, third and fourth quarters and though Northern Cambria was able to put together its best eight minutes in the second period, West Shamokin was never threatened. The Wolves led by 18 points at the break, 35-17, and continued to cruise in the second half.

West Shamokin welcomed back senior guard/forward Justin Smulik after he missed the first six games of the season with a knee injury. While McCullough used Smulik sparingly, he made the most of his minutes and was the model of efficiency as the Wolves opened up a big lead. Smulik finished with 13 points and four rebounds and was extremely opportunistic from the field.

"It was great to Justin back out there, getting back into the swing of things," McCullough said. "We've eased him back in, we're really careful to get him back into the shape he needs to be, especially since we didn't have the normal conditioning leading up to it. Maybe I've been a little bit overly cautious with him as I'm sure he would tell you that he wanted to be out there more. He's been a great boost to us and he's a major weapon. We have six major weapons who can score for us on any given night."

The re-addition of the elder Smulik to the lineup provided yet another scoring option for a team that boasts a roster of six other players who could lead the team in points on any given night. Younger brother Trevor Smulik finished with 12 points and senior forward Ezeck Olinger chipped in with a game-high 15 to go along with a team-high six rebounds.

"Sometimes it's rebound-by-committee, or assists or steals, but we have a lot of guys who can put points on the board," McCullough said.

While the two Smuliks and Olinger controlled the front court for the Wolves, guards Jack McCullough, Bo Swartz and Eric Spencer played unselfish, balanced basketball in the backcourt. McCullough dropped in eight points and added three assists and three steals. Spencer had five points to go along with four rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. Swartz added five points, four assists and two rebounds.

While the condensed winter season has been littered with delays and has created havoc for athletic directors across the state as the create then revamp their schedules on a daily basis, McCullough noted that the unique feel of 2021 has allowed his team to mesh more quickly. Sometimes, out of chaos comes order.

"It feels more like a sprint than a marathon this season, three games a week and they do feel extra-important because you have less time to prepare," McCullough said. "With the unpredictability this year, we know that each game is so much more important as we build to where we want to be heading into the playoff run."

West Shamokin will be back in action on Wednesday evening for a Senior Night match-up against Heritage Conference foe Purchase line. The game will be broadcast live on High Top Sports Network with junior varsity action tipping off at 6 p.m. with the varsity contest to follow.

To watch a complete re-broadcast of West Shamokin's 58-30 win over Northern Cambria, please click the link below:

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