Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — A year ago at this time, Adena was hovering near the bottom of the Scioto Valley Conference standings.
Coach Kyle Bradley had his hands full with an abundance of talented underclassmen, but it was a group of underclassmen that lacked experience at the varsity level. So in effect, the Warriors took their fair share of losses on the chin before finishing the season at 6-16 overall.
This year, however, has taken quite the opposite path.
Those underclassmen are still underclassmen. But they’re now a group that oozes experience after being thrown into the mix early in their careers. Trial by fire has worked and the village of Frankfort is reaping the benefits of watching their hometown team grow up on a nightly basis.
“There are so many great things about playing with this group but the best thing is probably that we don’t have to rely on one guy,” sophomore Jarrett Garrison said. “Every one of our guys have the ability to score and have a big effect on the game. If you want to put focus on stopping one of us, there’s another guy right behind him ready to do his job to help us win.”
Adena currently sits at 13-4 overall with a 10-1 mark in the SVC. The Warriors still have a viable shot at winning a conference title … but you wouldn’t know that by the exposure they’ve received.
With much of the media attention focused on conference-leading Zane Trace, Adena has seemingly flown under the radar to 13 wins.
But don’t be so quick to count out the Warriors. They’re a dangerous team that has just as many bonafide scoring options as anyone else.
Leading the charge has been a sophomore class that includes the likes of Jarrett Garrison, Logan Bennett, Preston Sykes, Jacob Shipley and Nate Throckmorton. When you throw in veterans Caleb Foglesong and Zach Fout into the mix, you get a fine-tuned scoring machine.
“When we discussed the potential growth of our program last year, I had one thing in mind and that was to buy into a passion to work on their game in the offseason,” Bradley said. “Credit to this group. They attended everything all summer and, not only worked, but got a chance to experience success … which I thought was huge following the struggles of last season.”
Last season is now a distant memory.
Take Garrison for example. While the Warriors’ point guard certainly flashed glimpses of brilliance during his freshman campaign, he’s taken his game to new heights this season.
Garrison is averaging 10.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and a league-leading 4.3 assists per game.
“I believe that something I’ve been able to do well this season is slowing the game down,” Garrison said. “At the varsity level, things can get fast. Being able to see the game at a different pace has helped me limit turnovers and create for my teammates more efficiently. But sometimes I’m a little bit too unselfish with the ball and give up scoring opportunities.”
Garrison’s mindset mirrors each of his teammates’. He knows what he’s improved on but he also knows there’s always room to improve even further.
Bennett is another benchmark example. After struggling at times last season, Bennett has developed into one of the league’s best scorers, anywhere on the court.
“Logan is a great guy to play alongside. He’s a comedian that never fails to give the team a laugh,” Garrison said. “He has guard skills in a big man’s body. He has been a major contributor to our success by bringing consistent scoring and rebounding every game. Even though he can beat you up inside, he can come out and shoot the 3. No matter where he is on the court, he has a skill set that puts himself and others in a successful position.”
Bennett holds averages of 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He’s second on the team in scoring, just behind Fout at 18.4 points, who’s obviously an imperative part of the team’s near future.
“Logan does a lot of different things for us, one of those being hitting the glass hard and giving us second chance opportunities,” Bradley said. “Zach has been a huge part to our success and is such a tough matchup. Most teams have focused on stopping him, which has really opened up things for his teammates.”
And, don’t be quick to forget the contributions Bradley has put in either.
His players certainly haven’t.
“Coach has done countless things for Adena basketball. From staying up late to get a scouting report together, or getting in early to open the gym for us to get shots up … everything he does, he does for this program,” Garrison said. “He puts the emphasis on the little things and the basics and we’ve bought into that. That’s helped us have the season we are having.”
With five regular season games left — dates with Huntington, Portsmouth West, Hillsboro, Unioto and Zane Trace — the Warriors show no signs of a slowdown. Last season’s end came in a 78-68 loss to Lynchburg-Clay in a Division III sectional semifinal.
If players like Garrison and Bennett have any say in the matter, the end will come much further down the tournament trail this spring.
“I think our season has went great as we planned,” Bennett said. “We all just bring so much to the the table and we just practice hard all of the time to make each other better. I think we definitely can go on a good tournament run. But we have to focus on getting better every night.”
It’s time to give credit where credit is due. Don’t sleep on the Warriors.