MARTINS FERRY - Every successful team has its fair share of glue guys.
You know ... the guys who make the winning plays that don't always show up in the boxscore.
Actually, the Martins Ferry basketball team has plenty of role players and they've been playing those roles exceptionally well throughout the tournament trail, which has led them to the Division III regional tournament at Ohio University in Athens where the Riders will take on 21-2 Lucasville Valley on Wednesday.
MARTINS?FERRY two-guard James Edwards has stepped up his scoring in the last month or so, including a big game in the district final.
MARTINS?FERRY point guard Jake Barritt has been a key cog in the Riders’ success on both ends of the floor. The Riders will take on Lucasville Valley on?Wednesday.
"Everyone on this team has done a great job of embracing their role," Ferry head coach Jeff Sabatino said. "If they continue to do that, and don't get disrupted by the opposition, then we have a chance because we'll operate at a high level."
Most coaches - when scouting the Purple Riders - focus on the Riders' bigs. And rightfully so since senior Robert Vargo (6-ft-6) and sophomore Emilio Appolloni (6-8) patrol the paint.
However, some have forgotten about the Riders' backcourt of junior Jake Barritt and sophomores James Edwards. Both have played crucial parts in the Riders' success.
"We like when people doubt us," Barritt said prior to Monday's practice. "It really lights a spark in us and we just use it as motivation when we go on the court. But, it is what it is, I guess. We really can't change people's opinions. We just have to go out and play and try to earn the respect."
While the Riders aren't leading the area in 3-pointers this season, they've actually shot the ball well from behind the arc when they've needed to. That includes last Friday when Barritt and Edwards teamed for seven bonus goals, including five by Edwards.
"I would like to shoot the ball like that every night, but I guess it was just my night," Edwards said. "Robert's a really good player inside, but you can't forget about Jake and me. (Jake) handles it and dishes the ball well, and I've been able to pick up my scoring some of late, too."
Not only were Edwards' shots big because they ignited a Riders' run, but they also created more space for Vargo - the Eastern District's D-III Player of the Year - to work later in the game.
"James and I hit those 3s, and it just seemed like it was wide open (inside) after that," Barritt said.
Edwards has been averaging in double figures over the course of the last month. He had a big district tournament, netting some 17 points a game.
"I think we all realized we had to pick up our scoring a little bit to help Robert out a little bit," Edwards said. "We've all done that and it's allowed us to win games."
Barritt, whose dad Dave helped lead Bridgeport to the regional final in Athens during his prep career, could actually care less how many points he scores. As long as the Purple Riders have more than their opponent, he's OK with that.
"Whatever it takes for us to win," Barritt said. "I know my role and it's to be more of a ball handler and distribute the ball in to our bigs. I think we've done that pretty well so far and it's really helped our team's success."
Sabatino thinks both Edwards and Barritt would love to do more, but their ability to play within themselves is critical for Ferry's success.
"We've asked James and Jake to do what we ask them to do and get very good at it," Sabatino said. "Some parents might not like it, but they like where we're at."