Blue Ridge mixes youth, experience

Blue Ridge mixes youth, experience

GIBSON CITY — A look at the Blue Ridge boys’ basketball roster provides a misleading perception.

Nine of the team’s 14 players are sophomores.

And yet, when the Knights take the floor, it’s with a veteran group.

“We have two three-year starters back (Will Duggins and Michael Plunk) and another third-year varsity player (Clint O’Neal),” Knights coach Kyle Watson said.

The experience of the senior trio showed from the outset Tuesday night. Blue Ridge made 10 of 16 first-quarter shots, building a 22-9 lead against Olympia en route to a 60-42 triumph in the 42nd Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Thanksgiving Tournament.

“Practice has been a lot of fun,” Watson said. “We try to go up-tempo as much as we can and make practice tougher than the games.”

Plunk, who could reach the 1,000-point mark in the tournament that ends Saturday, fired in a game-high 23 points. O’Neal led all rebounders with 10.

“We did a lot of nice things, but there are things we need to work on,” Watson said. “O’Neal is a bull on the rebounds. He’s one of the hardest workers we had in the weightroom.”

Watson said he would like to get all of his varsity players involved in the games. He went 10 deep against the Spartans, until the final 3 minutes, 39 seconds, when he cleared the bench.

“I’d like to go deeper,” he said. “It’s a fun group to work with. They bring it in practice.”

Plunk will be a targeted player this season.

“He and I have talked, and he knows a lot of teams will bring their best defensive player at him,” Watson said. “He’s a very special player.”

Coale Dolbert scored seven points and James Hardesty had eight rebounds for the Knights in their opener. Plunk nailed three of the Knights’ five three-pointers. Olympia is 0-2.

GCMS 55, Clinton 44. The Falcons (2-0) opened a 24-point third-period lead (41-17) but had to hang on for a win after Clinton cut its deficit to eight points twice in the final 7:22.

“We made plays when we had to,” GCMS coach Ryan Tompkins said. “We’re proud of the guys for rallying around one another to close it out.”

Six of GCMS’ 12 first-half baskets were from three-point range. That’s OK by Tompkins.

“We’ve got kids that we feel can knock it down,” he said. “There are a lot of green lights. We have a number of guys who can do it.”

Four Falcons made treys. Tyler Hinshaw and Devyn Roesch each hit two.

Wiley Hasty led GCMS with 14 points. Hinshaw had 13 and Ross Royal — who closed out the first quarter with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from a step inside the halfcourt line — added 10 points. Royal was 5 for 5 from the free throw line. Hasty and teammate Jake Barnes were the game’s top rebounders with nine and eight, respectively.

Camryn Ward led Clinton (0-2) with 19 points. He also had a team-high seven rebounds.

Roanoke-Benson 49, Fisher 27. After managing eight first-half points, Fisher outscored the Rockets after intermission but fell short in its season opener.

“We came out and played better and more aggressively the second half,” Fisher coach Ron Ragle said. “We knew we had a lot to work on. We’ll learn from our mistakes and move on to the next one.”

Grant Pointer led Fisher with 13 points. Kyle Williams added nine points. Connor Zook grabbed a team-high six rebounds.

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