Basketball Notebook for January 20

Weddington’s Rutherford approaching school points record

Weddington senior guard Bennett Rutherford is just 105 points shy of the school’s all-time scoring record of 1,257, set in 2008 by Corey Rase. This year, Rutherford has been one of the county’s leading scorers at 18.1 points per contest.

“I try to stay focused on the next game,” Rutherford said. “I don’t want to think about the record too much, but obviously it’s in the back of my mind. Winning a conference championship is my main goal, but breaking the record would be great.”

And while he doesn’t want it to become a distraction for his team, Weddington coach Gary Ellington said Rutherford’s impending milestone is more indicative of an increase in intensity by the entire team, especially the senior class, as the season enters the final leg of conference play.

“He’s been the leader of that sense of urgency,” Ellington said of Rutherford. “He really has decided he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure we win.

“I see a difference in the way he’s played since Christmas; he plays harder. He’s always played hard, but I don’t know how to explain it – I can see in his body language that intensity and desire to make sure we win, from the start (of games) to the finish.”

The Warriors started the season 7-3 but lost two of their three games at the CMC-Union Holiday Invitational. But since resuming play in early January, the Warriors are 4-0 as they prepare for games against Parkwood (Friday, Jan. 20), Sun Valley (Tuesday, Jan. 24) and Anson (Friday, Jan. 27).

“These are the last few games of our careers,” said Rutherford, “so there’s a sense of urgency to finish the way we want to.”

Pirates look to rebound

While it was just one defeat (and the first of the season, no less), Porter Ridge girls basketball coach Ina Thompson said the Pirates’ 52-47 loss to rival Parkwood on Jan. 10 highlighted some areas in need of improvement. Given the fact that Union County Public Schools have had the week off from games for exams, Thompson said it’s been the perfect time for her 14-1 team to get back on track.

“We definitely needed to just focus (this week),” Thompson said. “A lot of times, losing is a way for you to realize, ‘Hey, this is a weakness of ours and we need to work on this and refocus and reexamine’ before you’re too deep and you’re in the playoffs and you realize that. We’re definitely learning from it and hope to make sure it doesn’t’ happen again and try to win the rest of our games.”

The most glaring problem has been on the glass, where the Pirates have struggled to replace last year’s leading scorer and rebounder, Kelley Godbout, who also was the 2010 Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference Player of the Year. While Jada Huntley has been solid down low, a season-ending injury to forward Megan Madanski has made controlling the glass difficult.

“That’s what we’ve been working on this week,” said Thompson. “We’ve got to box out more, and we need to get to the boards more and get more offensive rebounds.”

Offensively, the Pirates feature a balanced attack, the foundation of which was laid last year as opposing teams focused on stopping Godbout. So far, Jada Huntley leads the way at 15.6 points per game, followed by Jasmine Huntley (13.8), Jade Jones (6.6) and Haley Secrest (6.8). Thompson also commended the play of forward Bobbi Jones, who has been instrumental in helping hold opponents to just 32 points per game, an important aspect with the second half of conference play approaching.

“It’s been a great start, but I told the girls that what we did up until conference play really doesn’t matter,” said Thompson, whose team is two games into a five-game road swing. “We’re in the second part of our season, which is the most important part. All that other stuff was preparing us for this next stage.”

Porter Ridge travels to Marvin Ridge on Friday, Jan. 20 before making trips to Anson (Tuesday, Jan. 24) and Piedmont (Thursday, Jan. 26) next week.

Big week for Spartans

With the second half of conference play heating up across the county, many teams have their eyes trained on league titles. But few squads have a chance to determine their own fate in the next week as much as the Sun Valley boys.

The Spartans, with a 13-4 overall mark and a 4-0 record in the Southern Carolina 3A/4A, are tied with Weddington for the league lead, followed closely by Anson at 2-2. The Spartans have a chance to separate themselves this week with trips to Anson (Friday, Jan. 20), Weddington (Tuesday, Jan. 24) and Marvin Ridge (Friday, Jan. 27).

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” said Spartans coach Keith Mason. “I know that’s an old cliché, but if we take care of Anson at their place, and then if we go to Weddington and Marvin Ridge and win, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

The Spartans have won five consecutive games, but their last loss was a 104-83 drubbing at the hands of Anson on Dec. 21. The following night, Weddington held Sun Valley to 46 points, which is 22 points below their season average, in a 46-35 Spartan win. Mason said starting guard Jalen Witherspoon missed the initial matchup with Anson with food poisoning and was about 70 percent in their win over the Warriors.

Mason said that while the Spartans were forced to play without Witherspoon in the loss to Anson, there were several benefits to the first meeting.

“We saw what they were doing, we saw how they wanted to play,” he said. “Getting Jalen back in the game plan we had for them, and the guys buying into it and doing it well, I think, really helps us.”

Most important, Mason said his team isn’t headed into the upcoming stretch with an inflated sense of confidence, even though it should get a boost from Witherspoon’s presence this time around.

“(Our players) know not to take (these teams) lightly,” Mason said. “They’re not looking ahead.”

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