By Rubin E. Grant
As the Vestavia Hills boys basketball team entered the middle of January, it already had surpassed the number of victories it had during the 2019-20 season.
The Rebels finished 14-14 last season but started play this week with an 18-2 record.
Vestavia Hills opened the season with eight consecutive wins before a 62-56 loss to arch-rival Hoover. Since then, they have gone 10-1 with the only loss coming to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, 55-44, in the Metro Tournament at the end of December.
Last Friday, the Rebels opened Class 7A, Area 6 play with a 76-66 victory at Hewitt-Trussville. The Rebels are scheduled to play two area games this week at home against Gadsden City on Tuesday and Spain Park on Friday.
Vestavia Hills coach Patrick Davis said several factors have contributed to the Rebels’ success this season, including how they have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would say, first and foremost, one of the big things is getting to play 20 games when six to eight months ago it looked like we probably wouldn’t play any,” Davis said. “We take every day we get to play as a blessing and we value every day.
“We have a bunch of guys with a lot of experience who have bought into playing the way we want to play. We have six seniors who were not OK with winning only half of our games last season. They have put ego aside, they’re close and they enjoy being around each other. We challenge them to go out and be an all-star in their expected roles and they are committed to doing that.”
The Rebels’ seniors are guards Grant Uldrich, Nate Campbell, Charlie Hughes, Garrett Smith, Joey Caiola and forward Micah Roberson.
But their top scorer is 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard Win Miller, who is averaging a little better than 17.0 points per game. He reached the 30-point plateau in two of the Rebels’ past three games, scoring 31 in the victory against Hewitt and 30 in an 82-50 win over Woodlawn in the Metro Tournament on Dec. 31.
“He’s real good and a lot of fun to coach,” Davis said. “He works relentlessly in a team setting and on his own. It’s very seldom when I don’t get a text from him asking me to come open the gym for him. He loves it. For a guy who loves it, it doesn’t seem like work.
“He’s our point guard so he has the ball in his hands all the time, but he can score a lot of different ways.”
Junior guard Jude Cleary is the only other Rebel averaging in double figures, scoring 10.0 points per game. Uldrich is the top scorer among the seniors, averaging 8.5 points. Junior Alex Armstrong, a 6-foot-6 forward, is another key contributor.
The Rebels’ season ended last year with a loss to Mountain Brook in the area tournament. Mountain Brook has moved down to Class 6A this season, but that means little to Davis. He believes the Rebels are good enough to compete with anyone and have a good chance at a deep run in the postseason.
“We try not to focus on what comes at the end of season, but we’re going to try to be as good as we can be,” Davis said. “I like our team. I think we can be good enough to compete for a regional championship and be a Final Four team.”