Indians to "Cram" for Basketball Game with Grizzlies with Passing Grade a Trip to 'AA' State Tournament

By Jeff Toquinto on March 07, 2018 via

Mike Robey remembers his days in high school. He remembers more than once cramming for a very important exam.
“Absolutely. I did it more than once,” said Robey with a laugh when asked about it.
While it’s been decades since Robey has had to do that for himself, he’s about to do it again today. The veteran coach will be back practicing for the first time since before Feb. 21, which was the last game the Indians boys’ basketball team played before the teacher strike began statewide.
Since that time, Robey’s team hasn’t been guided by either him or Assistant Coach Zak Bart. Kids would have to practice on their own or with volunteers and in the recent sectional, it was Bridgeport High School Principal Mark DeFazio, Assistant Principal Renee Mathews and Volunteer Paul Smith that was on the bench.
Today, Robey and Bart will be back on the hardwood leading their team in practice. The issue, however, is that the Indians have one full day to practice to get ready for a one-shot deal to earn a berth in next week’s Class AA state tournament.
The 15-7 Indians, the winners of Region II, Section 1, will face 15-9 Nicholas County, who fell to Braxton County by a 66-54 score in the Section 2 final, Thursday night at Bridgeport High School. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
“It’s definitely going to be like cramming for an exam. Hopefully, we’re prepared enough to get it done in one day, but it’s hard to do,” said Robey. “The one thing helping is that his team, as I’ve said all year long, has great senior leadership. They’re the ones that have created an atmosphere where everyone plays for each other. That unselfishness will help us with such a quick turnaround.”
Robey singled out his four seniors. He said Brayden Lesher, Adam Bentz, Jack Mitchell and Jacob Perine have all played a key part in the Indians being one step away from Charleston.
“I can’t say enough good things about those four,” said Robey.
Those four, along with the rest of Bridgeport’s deep rotation, will be asked to beat a Nicholas County team BHS has already beaten twice this year. In a neutral site affair early in the season, BHS won by a 70-67 score in Glenville and then came back with a home win against the Grizzlies by a 67-48 score that Robey said was much closer than indicated.
“The first time we won by the skin of our teeth. The second time we played extremely well with them and the game was competitive until we pulled away late,” Robey said. “I know the adage it’s tough to beat a team three times, but I don’t follow that because we’ve had two competitive games with them. We know we have a tough task at hand.”
Robey said Nicholas County’s strength is in their backcourt. He pointed to a trio of guards – sophomore Luke LeRose, senior Nick Nutter and Junior Tanner Huffman – as the ones that cause the most problems on what he described as a team with plenty of talent.
“Those guard are all good play and on any night, if they get hot and get to the rim with no one contesting them, they can beat you,” said Robey. “The first thing to do is worry about LeRose because everything run through him.”
Robey said LeRose has tremendous speed and ball handling skills. Robey said the 6’0 guard caused problems in the two outings prior by getting into the lane and facilitating the NCHS offense.
“We really struggled with him,” said Robey.
As for Nutter, Robey called him a “pure shooter” that benefits many times from LeRose drawing the defense. He pointed to Huffman as more of a combination of those skill sets with the ability to drive and the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter.
Bridgeport will counter with its seniors and the standard starting five. The group of starters consists of Lesher and Bentz in the backcourt with Blake Bowers at the point, while Jake Bowen is the team’s power forward and Tanner Bifano handles the center duties.
The Indians are still alive thanks to sectional wins against Liberty and Robert C. Byrd. Both of those games saw Robey and Bart have to watch from a distance due to the work stoppage.
“I can’t emphasize enough what an amazing job Coach DeFazio and Coach Smith did in our absence the last two games,” said Robey. “When you realize they were limited because until the stoppage they had never practiced with the team or were in our huddles, it makes it even more impressive
I think they would tell you that they got a lot of help from our seniors,” Robey continued. “They led by example in a difficult situation.”
Robey said if the Indians are fortunate to advance, it will be because of the team’s defense. He said that’s been the common thread in every win and in every strong outing.
“If we win, I can guarantee you it will be the defense leading the way,” said Robey.
Radio coverage can be found on 103.3 WAJR FM with coverage starting at tip at 7 p.m. Chris George will handle the play by play for the contest.
The winner will play next Wednesday at the Civic Center. Seedings and times will be announced Thursday after all games are completed.
Editor's Note: Photos by The first, second and final photos are from the Indians' home game with Nichoals County 

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