Boyd County guard bringing her talents to Marshall
CANNONSBURG, Ky. - In 2013 seventh-grader Savannah Wheeler was the first player coming off the bench for the Boyd County High School girls basketball varsity team and Lady Lions fans were relishing thoughts of the seasons ahead.
Taylor Wheeler, a senior, was the star player then, but the next season her sister was an eighth-grader well on the way to reaching 1,000 career points as a freshman.
From 2013-14 through the end of last season Boyd County had a 119-42 record.
The Cannonsburg-to-Marshall University pipeline is delivering big dividends with Savannah Wheeler, now a 5-foot-6 senior point guard, signed to play next season for the Thundering Herd women’s team.
“I wanted to stay close to home,” she said. “After high school I thought I wouldn’t be in a very good situation if I was far away from home. I went on a visit my sophomore year and they gave me an opportunity to stay close to home, so I just thought it was the best fit for me and my family.”
Lady Lions coach Pete Fraley, who is in his 23rd season coaching at Boyd County, makes the 18-mile trip from school to Cam Henderson Center at Marshall often because his daughter, Logan Fraley, is a senior guard for the Herd. Fraley, who doubles as Boyd County’s athletic director, said he attends every Marshall game he can.
Logan Fraley and Wheeler both became huge scorers for coach Fraley. As a junior Wheeler slipped past Logan Fraley to become the Lady Lions all-time leading scorer with 2,198 points. Logan Fraley had previously surpassed Taylor Wheeler to claim that title.
Like Logan Fraley, who hit five 3-point shots in a state tournament game as a freshman, Wheeler loves pressurized last-minute situations.
Wheeler’s monstrous scoring number keeps increasing. By January 18 (the latest KHSAA report) she’d already notched 531 points for the season and led Kentucky with 31.2 points per game; was tied for second place for 3-pointers with 61; held fourth place with 133 made free throws; was fifth with 3.4 average 3-point baskets a game; and is an 83.1 percent free throw shooter.
She has more than 3,000 career points and counting.
But coach Fraley said that’s not all she does.
“She’s just really good defensively,” he said. “She guards the ball. She does really well reading our press.”
One thing Logan Fraley was known for at Boyd County was being a master of steals, and that rubbed off on Wheeler.
She gets a lot of hands on balls, deflections and steals that turn into points, said her coach.
Marshall head coach Tony Kemper said you could tell at a really young age that Wheeler had a good feel for basketball and she continues developing every year.
“She can get it to the rim at her size,” Kemper said. “She has a great mid-range floater game and she shoots the three really well. I think she’ll be able to step in right away and provide scoring touch for us.”
Despite Wheeler’s 40 points, No. 5 Boyd County (16-3) fell to West Virginia Class AAA No.1 Parkersburg in the Tri-State Throwdown at Fairland High School on Saturday. Boyd County’s other losses were to Ashland and West Virginia Class A No. 1 Huntington St. Joe.
The Lady Lions have won two tournaments, the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic in Lexington, Kentucky, with Wheeler named tournament Most Valuable Player, and the Innisfree Hotels Pensacola Beach Classic. They also won both games in their own Boyd County Roundball Classic.
Perhaps the only person that will be happier than Kemper to see Wheeler in a Marshall uniform is Ashland Kittens coach Bill Bradley.
Last year Boyd County defeated Ashland, 64-59, in double overtime for the 64th District championship. Then the Lady Lions slipped past the Kittens, 55-52, with an MVP performance from Wheeler in the 16th Region tournament.
“She’s probably the most prolific scorer I’ve seen in girls basketball,” said Bradley, who is in his 18th season coaching the Kittens.
Boyd County sophomore guard Harley Paynter said Wheeler is a great teammate who helps get everyone involved and always comes up huge in late-game situations.
Huntington St. Joe’s Paige Shy played on the West Virginia Thunder AAU team with Wheeler, and they’ll be teammates again at Marshall.
“I’ve known her since middle school,” Shy said. “We got really close in high school and she’s just like my sister. I can go to her for anything. She definitely is a go-to player. She can shoot a three, drive, floater, just a really good all around player.”
The Lady Lions are hoping for a three-peat as 16th Region champion and make it to the Sweet 16 state tournament again. Last year they defeated Webster County and Dupont Manual before losing to Mercy Academy. It was the Lady Lions first time in the Final Four.