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Tucker determined to get back to winning

Second-year coach Daniel Helmick believes program is headed in right direction

Submitted photos Pictured are members of the 2021 Tucker County High School boys basketball team. The Mountain Lions open the regular season Saturday at Gilmer County.

Editor’s note: The following is the eighth in a series of previews of area high school boys and girls basketball teams. The series of previews will run in each edition through Thursday.

HAMBLETON — Tucker County boys basketball coach Daniel Helmick knows a little something about being on winning teams.

During his playing career with the Mountain Lions, Helmick was a three-time Class AA all-state second-team selection at guard for legendary coach Tom Gutshall in the mid-90s, playing in the state tourney all four years.

Now in his second season as the Tucker County mentor, Helmick, a former assistant under Gutshall, is determined to get the program back in the right direction.

“We want to get back to winning at Tucker County,” he said. “We have to change this culture of losing, and I don’t think we’re too far off from doing just that.”

Zack Colebank is a returning senior for Tucker County this season.

The Mountain Lions lost just two seniors off last year’s 4-20 squad.

Despite winning just four games, Helmick saw some bright spots from his team heading into the offseason.

“We started playing a lot better at the end of last season,” Helmick said. “I know our record wasn’t very good to indicate that, but we were competing hard.”

Helmick likes the mixture of classes with the 2021 version of the Mountain Lions, and has been especially pleased with the returning players.

“They’ve bought into what we want to do and were really putting in the work in the weight room before we got shut down (due to COVID-19),” he said. “And we have some younger kids that could step in and help us right away.”

The Mountain Lions will look to senior Wyatt Betler for scoring and rebounding.

Key seniors back include Gus Mullennex, Zack Colebank, Wyatt Betler and Trey Keys.

Trenton Wilfong also played valuable minutes last season as a freshman.

Helmick is also excited about the success of the feeder schools Tucker Valley and Davis-Thomas. Tucker Valley edged D-T, 43-40, in last season’s PVL championship game.

Freshman Ashton Lycliter, who was a member of the winning TV squad, is expected to contribute right away at the varsity level.

“Ashton is in the 6-foot-4, 6-foot-3 range and is your typically gym rat,” Helmick said. “He really has a bright future on the court.”

Senior Gus Mullennex gives Tucker County a veteran presence in the backcourt in 2021.

Helmick is hoping his team can get off to a good start in the condensed 18-game schedule.

“We really need to win some games early and get some confidence. Winning breeds success and these kids have to learn how to win again and know how important each possession is, especially late in games,” Helmick said.

“We’re going back to old-style Tucker County basketball with transition basketball and tough, guard your man defense. We need to grind out wins, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Beginning this basketball season, there will be four classifications in place for high school teams.

Tucker County will remain in Class A and compete in Region II, Section 1 with East Hardy, Union and Paw Paw.

Tygarts Valley, Harman, Pocahontas County and Pendleton County comprise Region II, Section 2.

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