The Summers County (Hinton, W. Va.)
girls basketball team is 113 victories away from tying Baskin (La.) for the nation's longest winning streak.
While the Bobcats appear a long way from that number, it's neither thought of as a goal or thought to be unachievable — they just play.
Coach Wayne Ryan is in his 16th season coaching the team from Hinton, a 3-square mile community of around 3,000 citizens. They have won 105 straight games, five consecutive Class AA state titles and are where every high school girls basketball team in the Mountain State wants to be.
"The first year we went undefeated (2008-09), we didn't expect to go 28-0," said the 47-year-old Ryan, whose team has the nation's 12th-longest winning streak all-time. "The last game of that regular season, Woodrow Wilson missed a shot at the buzzer that would have beaten us.
"What has been unique about this is we don't talk about the winning streak."
Their last defeat - 61-44 to Class AAA power Parkersburg South - came on Jan. 30, 2008. They went on to win their second straight title that year.
That year, Barack Obama was elected president, Tim Tebow led Florida to the NCAA football championship and the Detroit Lions were the first National Football League team ever to finish 0-16. Four years later, Tebow is the most-talked about player in the NFL, the Lions made the playoffs and the Bobcats (9-0) still haven't lost.
They are led by senior forward Candace Brown
, who has had more weight placed on her shoulders than previous Summers County stars. The 5-foot-9 guard is the nation's leading scorer at 37.3 points per game
. Also, she averages 11.3 rebounds and 9.3 steals in the Bobcats' high-pressure defensive system.
During the 105-game winning streak, Summers County has scored 8,814 points (83.9 per game). The Bobcats have scored 90 or more points 22 times and 100 or more on 13 occasions during the streak. Also, 27.6 percent of the games during the run have been against Class AAA schools, the largest division among West Virginia high schools.
This year the streak was expected to end. Summers lost two key players - Keri Hudson and Kelsey Surber - to injuries before the season began. A third, Brooke Edwards
, is just returning to playing shape after being sidelined with a shoulder injury.
That's where Brown comes in.
The speedy playmaker - who also averages 3.9 assists - has had to carry the weight of the team until some of the younger players come around. Those younger players, by the way, weren't expected to be on the varsity squad this season.
"We had to go further down than we thought we had to go," Ryan said. "You just have to take what's next. We're built around Candace, who is a star. Players we projected to just junior varsity players had no choice but to grow up."
Sophomore Brandy Morrison
is averaging 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, and freshman Avery Pivont
is at 8.7 points per game. Junior Tyra Wynes
is the point guard, which frees up Brown to "move around all the time."
The kind of player that practiced regularly, but only watched the varsity on game day was thrust into action.
Then again, the transformation isn't as daunting as it might appear.
From the sixth grade, Summers County players are taught the man-to-man defensive concepts - don't even let Coach Ryan hear the word "zone" muttered in his presence. By the middle of the second quarter of many games, the Bobcat reserves are off the bench and seeing game action, another key element to Summers' long-term success.
"For the last several years, besides the fact that man to man was our primary defense, zone was never a thought," he said. "You always have to do what's good for your team, so I'm not saying there's a situation where you won't run it. It's much harder to get your kids to buy into it."
The next test comes Saturday night when Summers County visits Scott and WVU recruit Makenzie White.
Summers County has defeated the Skyhawks in the last two state title games -- 58-50 in 2010 and 86-41 last year.
White and Brown are two of the top candidates for the Rat Thom Award, given to the player voted the top girls basketball player in the state.
And, there's that win streak Summers is protecting, something Ryan won't have time to think about until he's finished coaching.
"In the process of doing it, there's so much to do, you don't really get caught up in it," he said. "There's another game, another ankle injury, another kid with the flu. You just want to improve and get better instead of thinking about the win streak."Rich Stevens
is the assistant sports editor of the Charleston Daily Mail. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.