MT. ZION - While wins have been hard to come by for the Calhoun County boys basketball team of head coach Danny Bunch, the Red Devils are making progress.
Part of the reason for that has been the play of junior point guard Ryan Slider, who had a very scary moment in practice a week ago Friday.
Slider, who is averaging a double-double early on in the campaign via points and rebounds, had an incident during a drill with teammate Trent Phillips.
Coach Bunch, who wasn't pleased with the effort during a 58-41 road loss at Braxton County, decided his team needed to work on several things, one of them being boxing out and rebounding.
During the drill, Slider and Phillips were hustling for a loose ball well off the regulation part of the playing floor when they accidentally got tangled up.
"Ryan went head first into the bleachers," said Bunch, who noted Slider gashed the top of his head on the metal railing before crashing to the hardwood face first.
"When he hit the floor I got over there and he was laying in a pool of blood and it scared me for a second."
Luckily, they finally got the bleeding stopped and although Slider wanted to continue practicing, coach Bunch said absolutely not, even though he miraculously didn't show any signs of a concussion.
"He's battled through it and it's pretty impressive to me," Bunch said of Slider getting three staples on the top of his head along with 17 stitches above his eye, which made it look like he had two eyebrows.
Last Monday, the Red Devils got their first win, a 68-49 home victory versus Hannan, as Mason Sheldon and Ricky Hall had double-doubles and Slider tossed in 11 points, six boards and four steals.
Although Slider only played the first half against Parkersburg Catholic the following night, he helped the Red Devils nearly upend Ritchie County on Thursday.
In the season opener, the Rebels rolled to a 70-41 victory in Ellenboro, but trailed 26-23 after three in Mt. Zion before rallying for a 49-43 win.
Slider, who should be fully healed up when the Red Devils play host to Roane County on Jan. 3 in their next contest, had a team-high 13 points and added nine boards and four steals versus the Rebels.
"It's something we needed as a team," Bunch said of Slider showing some toughness.
"He's stepped up. We haven't had a lot of kids like that recently.
"Bronson Clark was kind of like that and it's nice to know that maybe they're coming back around. It's helped out a lot just for kids to stand around and watch him play."
Coach Bunch, who noted Slider only started playing hoops in the seventh grade, said he's still learning the game and needs to realize sometimes you have to let off the gas in certain situations.
"He cracked his head open to get that ball and sometimes you can play too hard and that's the truth," added the coach. "He hasn't been playing basketball that long and he's got a lot of upside. My point guard shouldn't be averaging 10 rebounds a game, but he does.
"That's how he plays and I'm glad he does. I'm proud of him. Depending on what happens between now and next year, some college may want to take a look a him."