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Copley, Kennedy keep Panthers rolling past foes

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

CHESAPEAKE — The Chesapeake Panthers have been a powerhouse this season.

And seniors Nathan Copley and Colin Kennedy have been the main fuel to help power the high school basketball juggernaut.

The 6-foot-2 Copley and 6-6 Kennedy have those typical numbers such as Copley’s 14.6 points per game and Kennedy’s 12 points per outing along with all the assists, steals and rebounds.

But the two seniors have brought more to the Panthers who are 20-1 and finished ranked second in the Associated Press Division III poll.

The two were key figures last season when the Panthers advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history. With a target on their chest all season, the Panthers have managed to stay focused on their goals thanks to the leadership of Copley and Kennedy.

“We’ve handled (the pressure) pretty well,” said Kennedy. “It can be hard to keep from getting complacent, but everyone gives 100 percent. We use the one loss to our advantage. We know you have to work for every win.”

The Panthers lost 78-77 to Class AAA Logan, W.Va., on a call at the buzzer that gave Logan a free throw to win the game.

“You can’t blame the call,” said Kennedy. “If we would have gotten one more basket or one more free throws, we wouldn’t have been in that position. The little things are the most important.”

Copley has been a four-year starter for the Panthers and four-year coach Ryan Davis. During his career, Chesapeake has won three straight Ohio Valley Conference titles along with the state tournament run.

“I’ve never coached a game at Chesapeake without Nathan Copley. I don’t know what it’s like,” said Davis.

“I told him before the season that we won’t have to count on him to score and that his role would be different. He said, ‘I knew that when last season ended.’ He’s just so unselfish.”

Copley doesn’t mind passing more and scoring less.

“I know I don’t have to score. We’ve got four or five guys who can score. It makes it kind of easy for me because we have people inside and outside. They focus on them and it makes it easier on me,” said Copley.

“Every practice coach pounds it into our heads to get better every possession.”

Although Copley has played well, he gives a lot of the credit to Davis for the Panthers ability to focus.

“Coach told us as long as we stay focused and keep working, we can achieve our goals,” said Copley. “It’s been a great ride. There’s not one thing I’d change. He’s tough on me, but he has turned me into a better player and because of him I’m a better person.”

Part of the reason Copley and Kennedy have smaller numbers this season is the fact the Panthers rarely play a full game. They did not win a league game by less than 25 points.

Davis said there are other factors, too.

“Every time we play people focus on Colin first and they double-team and even triple-team him. It’s cut down on his numbers, but it opens things up for everyone else,” said Davis.

Kennedy said that the Panthers are playing well because “team chemistry is unreal. I’ve never been on a team so close. We’re always doing something together.”

Regardless of the reason, the Panthers have found the perfect power source and so far they’re steamrolling opponents.

Power up.