Wildcats Aim To Improve

RC Team Members ‘Know Their Roles’

Returning four players from last year’s squad that made a run to the Region 3C semifinals, the Rockbridge County High School boys basketball team has high hopes for the upcoming season.

The Wildcats were scheduled to start the season last night at Western Albemarle, a team they upset 59-56 in the Region 3C quarterfinals last winter. After defeating the second-seeded Warriors, seventh-seeded RC ended its season just shy of advancing to the state tournament, falling at third-seeded Heritage 68-66 in the regional semifinals in a game decided by free throws. The Wildcats, who had bounced back from a 42-40 upset loss to Fort Defiance in the Valley District quarterfinals, finished the year with a record of 14-11, going 6-6 in the district to finish third.

The Wildcats graduated two talented outside shooters and defenders – Harrison Hundley and Caleb Walker – but 10th-year RC head coach Darrell Plogger is confident that this year’s team can also go far.

“I think the strength of us is we kind of already know our roles,” Plogger said. “If we get the ball to the guys in the right spot to score, we’ll do well. We’ve got a number of guys that can really score. I think we’ll be strong defensively, and we’ll have a little bit more length than we usually do.”

Plogger said the main area to focus on improving is rebounding. The Wildcats will also try to limit their turnovers to 10 or less each game, he said.

Several of the Wildcats’ leaders are coming off a 9-3 football season that ended in the Region 3C semifinals on Nov. 22, and Plogger and his assistant coaches are working to get them into basketball shape.

One of those leaders is senior co-captain Jailik Lynch, a 5-foot-10-inch point guard. Lynch was a consistent scorer and defender last season and earned all-district second team and all-region honorable mention honors. Lynch is a speedy player gifted at driving to the basket and collecting steals. “He’s the glue for us,” Plogger. “He’s a great leader who plays hard all the time. A team-first guy, one of the best team guys that I’ve ever had.”

The Wildcats’ other co-captain is junior shooting guard Aaron Plogger (6-1), a talented outside shooter who is strong defensively. An all-district and all-region selection who led the Wildcats with 22 point in their regional semifinal loss to Heritage, Aaron, the coach’s son, will team up with Lynch to guide the rest of the team. “We’re looking to those two guys for a lot of leadership,” said Coach Plogger. “I’m pleased with those guys. I know they’re going to play hard.

Likely joining Lynch and Aaron Plogger in the starting lineup will be two players moving up from the junior varsity team. Sophomore forward D.J. Lewis (6-1) is “really athletic and a really good defender,” Darrell Plogger said. “Offensively, he’s a slasher.” Junior forward Griff Ray (6-3) is “a really good shooter and defender and really athletic,” said the coach.

At center, the Wildcats have two players coming off strong football seasons. Returning from last year, senior Austin Doyle (6-6) is a strong rebounder and defender who can score inside. Junior Bret McClung (6-1) moves up from the JV team. “He’s a strong rebounder and good defender who can finish around the basket,” Plogger said. Junior center Zach Rogers (6-2) played basketball as a freshman before sitting out last season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Plogger said Rogers is “working his way to [get] back into shape.”

Also returning after moving up from the JV team when the Wildcats lost several of their varsity players last winter is sophomore Carter Hundley (6-1), who can play point guard and shooting guard. Plogger said Hundley handles the ball well and is a good shooter.

After making interceptions to help the Wildcats win several football games late in the season, sophomore shooting guard Isaiah Poindexter (5-10) moves up from the JV level. “He’s a lockdown defender,” Plogger said.

Sophomore forward Austin Higgins (5-11) joins the team as a strong defender, Freshman small forward J.C. Witherton (6-0), who recently moved to the area, “plays really hard,” Plogger said.

The Wildcats lost one of their key players from last year, junior forward Elijah Rogers, a strong scorer, defender, rebounder and emotional leader. Rogers had surgery this fall after a football injury. “We’re going to miss him, not only his play, but he was just a great kid in the locker room,” Plogger said, noting that Rogers probably would have averaged in double figures in scoring and rebounding this year. Plogger hopes he’ll be back next year.

Plogger said RC’s primary goal is “to get better every day. I do feel like we’ll be able to compete for a district championship.”

In the district, Plogger expects defending champion Spotswood and Broadway, last year’s runner-up, to be the toughest teams to beat.

Returning to join Plogger on the coaching sidelines is assistant David Miller. “I wouldn’t want to coach without him,” Plogger said.

Also returning and helping mostly with the junior varsity team is Ricky Haston. James Clark, who has coached both the RC boys and girls, at the varsity and JV level, has rejoined the coaching staff and will be the head JV coach.

New to the coaching staff will be Byron Winchester, a 2018 RC graduate who played basketball for the Wildcats and is a student at Radford University. Winchester will help coach both the varsity and JV teams when he’s available.

The new coaches will help replace Paul Pelter and Kelly Decker, who are now assistant coaches with the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College men’s basketball team, which is in its first season.

RC’s manager is junior Parker Woody. “He does a great job, does everything we ask him to do,” Plogger said.

The Wildcats will have their home opener this Friday against Fort Defiance, a team that has moved from the Valley District to the Shenandoah District. They’ll then play host to Western Albemarle on Tuesday. Both nights will start with JV action at 5:30 p.m.

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