COVENTRY TWP. Explaining how the Coventry Comets haven’t missed a stride despite having so many changes to their roster and coaching staff leading into the season is a two-part answer.
On one hand, a small contingent of returning players with varsity experience formed a solid core. On the other hand, there are the new guys.
With more than half the varsity roster comprised of new faces and with a new coach at the helm, three players in particular have made their mark on the season. One, sophomore guard Jarmond Hogg, has led Coventry in scoring several times this season. Another, junior center Sam Vanadia, anchors the defense and provides solid rebounding.
The third member of that group is sophomore guard Micah Wallace, who serves as one of Coventry’s top perimeter shooters and has gotten hot from 3-point range of late.
“We’re playing well and coming into this season we knew have to play big role for this varsity team,” Wallace said. “Me, Sam and Jarmond, with all seniors graduating last year, knew we would have to be a big part of how the team was run. Our confidence is high with good JV season last year and we got a little bit of variety experience.”
On the season, Wallace averages 8.1 points per game and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. His biggest performance of the season came two weeks ago in a rematch with Portage Trail Conference Metro Division leader Woodridge. The Bulldogs defeated Coventry in comeback fashion last month, earning a 58-57 win on the Comets’ home court and in the process, building a two-game lead in the standings.
Woodridge remained undefeated entering the rematch and, on their home court, the Bulldogs have been tough to beat in recent seasons. In a back-and-forth game, the hosts rallied from a six-point deficit in the second half to take a slim lead and entering the final period, the game was up for grabs.
That’s when Wallace had a breakout quarter, tallying 18 points and going 8-of-8 from the foul line to help his team edge ahead and deal Woodridge its first loss of the season, 63-57.
“Coming into second half, we wanted that game a lot more than it seemed Woodridge did and our guys played with a big chip on their shoulder,” Wallace said. “In the fourth, I knew some of my teammates weren’t necessarily playing their best brand of basketball and I knew with me coming in there, I needed to make some big shots for us to pull out the close win.”
The win elevated Coventry to 14-4 (now 15-4) and kept the Comets’ hopes for a share of the league title alive. For those putting stock in the raw numbers, the mark isn’t far off from the record Coventry posted the past two seasons with last year’s senior class in the lead. That class, with two 1,000-point scorers, helped start a winning tradition that the next wave of Coventry players wants to continue.
The question entering this season was how well the raw talent on the roster would come together. Wallace noted that the new faces on the roster were confident in what they could do and in their ability to continue the program’s winning ways.
“Seventh grade and eighth grade and freshman year, that whole building experience and getting to know your teammates and especially getting to know them on the court is huge,” Wallace said. “Not as many people value the middle school years as much as they should, but they really helped us gain confidence.”
That confidence plays into the overall team success and also for Wallace as an individual. Coming off the bench as the sixth man, his task is typically to inject life into the offense when first-year head coach Mike DiFalco gives one of his starting guards a rest. He’s delivered key 3-pointers in several games this season, including a contest in which Coventry raced out to an early 20-point lead at Norton, only to see the Panthers come charging back in the second half.
A clutch 3-pointer down the stretch helped the Comets hold on for the win and against Woodridge, it was more of the same. A tough postseason road awaits Coventry, which annually finds itself slotted in the same district as perennial power St. Vincent-St. Mary, but with the assistance of the new guys, Coventry is confident in its ability to compete on big stages.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB