Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

March 11, 2014

Seniors set to pace Panthers

GARDNER — Four young men have shared big chunks of the last four years together on the basketball court, developing trust in each other and forming a unit.

Now, a few months away from their graduation day at PikeView High School, those seniors want to extend that unity a couple of weeks longer.

To do so, the Panthers (14-9) must travel to western Wyoming County on Thursday and beat the Westside Renegades (18-6) in the Class AA Region 3 co-final.

Not an easy task.

The Panthers’ “sixth man,” Bradley Flinchum said, “We’ve still got this last part of the season to go, and then after this we’re done, and all of us are going separate ways.

“We’re just trying to make it the best at the end that we can have — so we can go off on a good note, and leave the underclassmen with something to build on.”

Classmate Tanner Farley said that the opportunity to continue the season in this week’s regional round is “definitely nice,” but he added, “I don’t want to stop here. Hopefully we’ll get the win and keep on playing, but there are good teams. We’ll have to see.”

A win on Thursday would propel the Panthers to the state tournament in Charleston next week. Flinchum thinks they would fit right in.

“I feel like we’re pretty good in that group,” he said prior to Tuesday’s practice at the school gym. Summing up their season, he said, “We’ve come from the bottom, and then we’ve done good, then we had a little bit of a struggle, then we bounced right back. I think we would do good in the final games.”

Zach Meadows, the biggest of the team’s big men, remembered back to the transition from their sophomore to junior year. PikeView JROTC First Sergeant William Anderson decided to retire from the coaching ranks, and Lindsey Jones was hired to succeed him.

“First, you’ve got to carry the torch, you’ve got to carry it out,” Meadows said. “This community expects wins, and we try to give it to them. We try to give them something to cheer about.”

“We knew what (Sergeant) Anderson wanted, because we’d been in his program for years. Then we were trying to figure out what Jones wanted and what his plays were all about.

“It was very difficult, trying to adapt, but I think we finally got it this year.”

Nathan Taylor, another of the seniors, tore a knee ligament before last season and missed most of his junior year of basketball.

He said his teammates “adjusted real well” to the new schemes “and had a pretty good season. Then this year, we know the coach and what he’s going to do. So we can expect (to change) defenses and stuff, and execute what he wants, the way he wants us to do it.”

The four classmates had the advantage of knowing each other’s games.

“Some of us started playing together back in middle school, or AAU,” Flinchum said.  “We know each other’s weaknesses and strengths, and we know what to do with them when we’re in the game with each other.”

Taylor said, “We’ve been real close. ... We’ve played together over the years. We’ve really been good at, like, getting down low and popping out for the 3. It’s been good, helping each other out.”

Involving other team members has made the Panthers even more successful. Taylor said,

“We can kick it out to them for shots. Jason Weitzel, he’s a real good shooter.”

“The way we communicate and everything, it all just works together.”

Each of the seniors has different roles.

Farley said about Meadows, “He’s a big guy. It’s intimidating for other teams to see a big guy like him on the court.”

Meadows said, “Nathan brings a lot of defense. He can shut some people down, and he’ll help rebound. Tanner, he can shoot the ball. We want him to shoot as much as he can and help us out on the offense end, and rebound and play D.

“Bradley brings a lot of hustle and enthusiasm to us. He may be the sixth man, off the bench, but he brings a lot of stuff when he comes on (to the floor).”

Flinchum said, “I just go out there and do what Coach Jones tells me to do: get rebounds, pass the ball, get the ball in the low post, shoot it. I’m just there to help the team out.”

Farley has a rather unique situation of playing on a varsity boys basketball team for which his mother, Teresa Farley, is an assistant coach.

The PikeView senior said, “It’s sort of weird sometimes, but I try not to acknowledge it at all, not make a deal about it.”

This year, senior leadership is at work throughout the PikeView team, Taylor said.

“All the seniors on the team, we all have real good grades,” he said. “In practice, we try to have a great mentality, and (set) a good example for the younger people.”

Tanner Farley said, “We’ve been really trying to be leaders. We’ve got a kind of older team, we want to show by example for everyone else, to show how to do it next year.”

Flinchum said. “I think we’ll be pretty good next year, because a lot of the freshmen have jumped up and dressed (for) varsity. They’ve learned how the speed of the game goes. I think they’ll be just fine.”

Additionally, Farley said, “We’ve got a good fan base. They enjoy the games, they like to watch us play.”

Meadows said about student support for the Panthers, “They definitely support us. They’re always asking us what’s going on, and what the goal is, and we always tell them, ‘To get up state, and have a chance.’ ”

The final step to reaching that goal will face PikeView on Thursday.

— Contact Tom Bone at tbone@bdtonline.com.

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