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2021-2022 Lincoln County Panthers

HAMLIN — The Lincoln County Panthers will be entering a rebuild year in the upcoming basketball season as they will be looking to replace all five starters from the team a season ago.

The Panthers and head coach Rodney Plumley said goodbye to four seniors from a 13-8 team a year ago that finished one game shy of the Class AAA State Tournament as Jayse Tully (13.2 ppg), Jonathan Blankenship (17.9 ppg), Will Carpenter (7.6 ppg), and Scooter Phillips (7.3 ppg) were all lost to graduation.

Then the only returning starter from a year ago, junior guard Isaiah Koontz, decided not to come out for the team this season which meant coach Plumley would have to find a whole new starting five to take the court this season in Hamlin.

“It’s going to be a feeling process for us probably for a little while,” coach Plumley said. “Anytime you lose five four year starters you are just not going to hit the floor rolling. It’s going to take some time for these kids to find their roles and for us to figure out how we have to play to see the results we want to see. We won’t have it figured out by mid December, but that’s the beauty of basketball.”

Senior guard Jackson Sanders is the most experienced returnee for the Panthers this season and will be expected to step into a lead role on the offensive end. He started a few games early on but ended the year coming off the bench and finished averaging eight points, four rebounds, and two assists per contest.

“Jackson is the only kid with quality playing time experience, he got a lot of quality starts for us as a sophomore and a junior,” Plumley said. “He will have to play at a high level for us this year night in and night out.”

Stepping into the point guard role this season will be sophomore Cam Blevins who played in 17 games as a freshman and averaged just over three points per game.

“Cam’s a little fireball,” Plumley said. “He actually started three games for us last year as a freshman and his play was a pleasant surprise and garnered him some rotation time the rest of the year. He can really fill it up and has no fear absolutely whatsoever on the floor.”

Junior forward Sawyer Tomblin (6’1”) also saw some action as a reserve a season ago for Lincoln County and will be expected to see more minutes for the Panthers this season along with 6’3” athletic junior Willis Graham.

Stepping into the open guard position left open by the departure of Koontz will be junior Colin Miller. Miller did not play a season ago but impressed during the summer and offseason according to coach Plumley.

“He played his freshman and sophomore years and played with us all summer in camps,” Plumley said. “He’s just a quality guard that knows how to compete and is a tough competitor. We’ve got to get the rust knocked off a bit but we really like him being out there on the floor with us.”

A pair of senior post players that did not play a season ago will also be competing for minutes on the inside according to coach Plumley in the form of Brady Slone (6’4”) and Gabe Chojnaki (6’1”) while sophomore guard Austin Adkins could also earn some playing time.

The Panthers 22 game schedule will feature several challenges for Lincoln County as they will play home-and-homes with sectional foes Logan and Scott as well as home-and-home series with Sissonville, Buffalo, Braxton County, and the Mingo Central Miners.

LCHS also plays a home-and-home with Regional opponents Point Pleasant and Ripley as well as single games against sectional foe Wayne and regional foes Winfield and Nitro.

The Panthers will also play two games in the Ritchie County tournament during Christmas break and a single game against Lewis County during a tournament in February.

Coach Plumley said that he is optimistic that by the time the postseason rolls around the Panthers will be a much improved team from the one that first took the court for practice in Nov.

“Every team you take on a new year with the number one thing you want to see is improvement from where you are as a team in November to where you are as a team in March,” Plumley said. “I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody has told me, ‘its going to be a long season ain’t it coach?’ This is high school basketball. You are going to have years where you graduate a bunch of kids and you are going to have years where you have everybody coming back.

“Over the last seven years we have had a lot of success, but the years that we are most proud of as far as our program goes was the years in which we lost the majority of our varsity players and was still able to bounce back and generate a winning. Those are the years that are important to the success and reputation as a program.”

Lincoln County is scheduled to open the season on the road on Friday, Dec. 10 at the aforementioned Miners and will play their first home game of the season on Dec. 17 against Buffalo.

HD Media reporter Jarrid McCormick covers sports in Mingo County.

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