By Josh Shreckengost
West Shamokin junior Trevor Smulik (12) scores two of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter of the Wolves' 63-32 home victory over Blairsville in Wednesday night's Heritage Conference opener. Smulik scored nine points in both the first and fourth quarters as the Wolves raised their 2021 season to 2-0.
Rural Valley, Pa. — Just as they did in their season opener against Indiana on Monday night, the West Shamokin boys varsity basketball team got came out of the locker room on fire, building a huge first half lead and cruising to a blowout victory.
Despite leading 48-17 at the half, the Wolves also repeated a trend from their contest against the Little Indians — taking their foot off the gas in the second half — and while West Shamokin head coach Judd McCullough was pleased with the victory and a 2-0 start, he was less than thrilled with his team's effort level in the second half.
"They went rogue on me, I'll be honest with you," McCullough said. "We wanted to come out, set up an offense and reverse the ball two or three times. Some guys, when they get hot, it's their natural instinct to take it. If it goes in, that's a different story, but it didn't go in and it led (Blairsville) getting on a little run. Defensively, we didn't bring our game in the second half. Offensively, we lost our focus. That's two games in a row and that's something that the coaching staff is definitely going to address."
West Shamokin lit it up from long distance in the first quarter and after eight minutes of play, the Wolves led, 27-12. The Wolves hit four threes in the frame, two back Jack McCullough and one apiece for Trevor Smulik and Eric Spencer. McCullough scored all 12 of his points in the first quarter while Smulik added nine.
The Wolves added three more longballs in the second period as they got triples from Bo and Lou Swartz and another Smulik. The seven first half three-pointers was a welcome change from the team's showing against Indiana, when they struggled from deep.
"I thought against Indiana, we started to take too many three-pointers," McCullough said. "As you can see, we can hit them and we're not going to shoot the abysmal percentage we did against Indiana and we showed that tonight."
Smulik was a force to be reckoned with and the Bobcats had no answer. Blairsville had little to no success in stopping Smulik as he dropped in a game high 27 points. Two days after scoring a game high 19 points against the Little Indians, Smulik continued to distinguish himself as one of the top scoring threats in the area. Smulik was able to score in a variety of ways, whether it was hitting a long three, driving to the hoop or hitting from mid-range.
"We run a lot of things through him," McCullough said. "I think that we're really balanced, don't get me wrong, but I think everyone is well aware that a lot of the offense, especially early on and throughout the game, we're going to run a lot of things to get him in good position to score. He can score in a variety of different ways at 6-4 with guard skills. I'm pleased at his start and I'm pleased with the team's start as a whole, aside from the second half lapses."
Blairsville won the third quarter as they outscored the Wolves in the frame by a margin of 12-7. The Bobcats got 10 points from junior guard Cameron Reaugh in the period and Blairsville's leading scorer finished with a team-high 18 points, the same number he recorded in the team's season opener against Purchase Line.
The Wolves retook control of the game in the fourth quarter and with a renewed focus, put the clamps on the Bobcats to run away with the 31-point victory. Smulik finished with seven rebounds, two steals and three blocks to go along with those 27 points. Bo Swartz, who played an excellent all-around game at point guard and was the facilitator for the Wolves' offense all night long, finished with seven points, a game-high eight assists, five rebounds and four steals. Senior forward Ezeck Olinger was a bull down low, especially defensively, and chipped in 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. McCullough added four assists to go along with his 12 points.
West Shamokin will now leave the friendly confines of the Wolves' Den as they travel to Saltsburg on Friday for another key, early season Heritage Conference match-up. A 3-0 start to the 2021 campaign would be gravy, but McCullough knows that not many more games will go the way the first two of this season have gone.
"Going anywhere on the road in the conference is difficult and going into Saltsburg is always difficult," McCullough said. "Coach (Don) Stitt always has them ready to play, they're always a really gritty team and even when they're not ultra-talented, they always play hard. I anticipate a battle down there. On paper, I think that's a game that we could and should win, but you don't play games on paper and we have to go down there and prove that we're better than Saltsburg."
To watch a complete rebroadcast of West Shamokin's 63-32 win over Blairsville on Wednesday night, click the link below:
Note: Due to an internet outage near the end of the fourth quarter, the final 1:05 of the game as well as the postgame show and Deertrak Golf Club and Event Venue Player of the Game was cut off. The Deertrak Golf Club and Event Venue Player of the Game was junior guard/forward Trevor Smulik. We apologize for the inconvenience.