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The WC Commanders played their final game of the season last week, but assistant coach Paul Howard couldn’t fault his team’s effort against the Nelson County Cardinals.
With WC down by five at the half and tied at 48 at the end of the third quarter, Howard’s confidence in pulling the game out with a win began to steadily grow stronger.
However, after being outscored 27-10 in the fourth quarter, the Commanders were unable to extend their season another game, losing by a score of 75-58.
“Our kids played with a lot of heart,” Howard said. “Our seniors played with a lot of emotion. I was happy with their performance as a whole. It was one of those game that could have gone either way.”
Howard was especially complimentary of Derek Barr’s performance, who scored 12 points off the bench and had one stretch of 3-for-3 three-pointers in the third quarter.
“He was on fire,” Howard said.
With only two wins on the season, Howard described his team’s performance for the year as “disappointing.”
But with some added mental toughness next season, Howard hopes his team will be able to overcome any holes his team showed this season.
“At times, we played really hard, but at other times, we weren’t there mentally,” Howard said. “You can take a kid, teach him the fundamentals of the game, but the mental part of it, it’s hard. They’ve got to be mentally focused for every ball game.”
The Commanders lose five seniors from this year’s squad. They will return three rising seniors, four rising juniors and a “strong group” of rising sophomores next season.
For Howard, next year’s success will be based on the work the returning players put in this offseason.
“It’s kind of going to be up to the kids as far as how successful we are next season,” Howard said. “They’re gonna have to work a lot in the offseason, get in the weight room, get stronger, work on their ball-handling. It’s going to be a challenge next year.”
As for the departing seniors—Thomas Pettus, Morgan Churchill, Ty’Lyn Byas, Sean Lewis and Derwin Hughes—Howard said that he would be “proud to call any one of them my son.”
“We’re losing a good bunch of kids,” Howard said. “That’s a special group.”