It's not often that a team wins all of its games but doesn't get a chance to win a state championship. But that's where James Wood's girls basketball team is heading.
The Colonels' are 17-0 and closing in on a perfect 20-0 record. That type of season would normally assure a post-season playoff berth. But there are no playoffs in the future for the team, which broke a 13-year old school record for consecutive wins this season.
Six years ago James Wood decided to help form the six-team Apple Valley girls basketball league, which includes five West Virginia high schools. The new league played in the fall, and it reduced travel time for the Winchester High School. The rest of the school's athletic teams participate in the Virginia AAA Commonwealth District. The only drawback was that when the West Virginia schools played in the their state tournament, James Wood was a spectator.
"It was an option we had," James Wood Athletic Director Jerry Kelican said. "Some of the Commonwealth schools are over two hours away and parents weren't happy with their kids getting home at 1 a.m. on a school night."
Coach John Maphis is also happy with the league. "It is perfect situation, except that there is no tournament for us to play in. We don't have to compete with other sports for gym space like we would have to in the winter. And we don't compete with football because we don't play on Friday."
Four of the five James Wood starters are seniors, led by 5-foot-8 forward Lynn Fisher, who is the team's top scorer at 15 points per game. The team has come close to losing just twice. The Colonels survived a last-second field goal attempt to edge Strasburg in the Apple Harvest Tournament, 59-58, and overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to roll past league rival Berkeley Springs (W. Va.), 60-43.
"Once we get on a roll we relax and everything clicks," said Fisher, who is a candidate to be the school's valedictorian. "When we fell behind (against Berkeley Springs) we had a positive feeling like we could turn it around just taking it one point at a time."
Fisher stands out as the team's top player, and she has started on the varsity since the ninth grade. But the other players on the team have also been part of a successful program, at both the junior varsity and varsity levels. Guards Laura White (10 points per game) and Shannon Garber (five assists and five steals per game) and center Kelly Sine (eight rebounds per game) were members of the junior varsity that went unbeaten as sophomores. Junior forward Lisa Eastridge was not on that team, but became a varsity starter last year, and has contributed several 20-plus scoring games this season.
A year ago the Colonels were off to another good start, but "lost their intensity and it snowballed," according to Maphis. But this year Fisher said the team has been scared of losing its intensity.
Maphis, who has a 69-24 mark in four-plus seasons at James Wood, credits the feeder program from the Frederick County and Robert E. Aylor middle schools for the team's success. "The girls are well-prepared to play here because of the coaching at the lower levels. I like to think all the coaches in our system (from seventh grade up to varsity assistant Brad Hoover) are second to none."