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McConnellsburg varsity rookies storm So. Fulton

When Ethan Barclay was in eighth grade at McConnellsburg Junior High School, he had to convince Chance Hawbaker to go out for the basketball team.

"He was not very good the first time he played," Barclay said of his good friend. "Let's just say he was less than fantastic." 

But it's a good thing Hawbaker took up the sport.

Now in their senior years, Barclay and Hawbaker have made the jump from JV to varsity and are turning heads for the Spartans' hoops team. On Friday night, the two combined for 25 points, and the Spartans defeated Southern Fulton, 41-28, in an Inter-County Conference/Sideling Hill League rivalry game.

"That's one of the things that makes us tough," Spartan coach Drew Washabaugh said. "Really, my starting five on the court, any of them can score double figures. Both of those guys are great. Ethan is starting to attack the rim more, and Chance is just really tough." 

Barclay and Hawbaker's inside game caused the most trouble for the Indians (14-4, 10-3 SHL, 9-3 ICC), who were out-rebounded 25-17. Hawbaker led the Spartans (16-3, 12-1 ICC, 10-1 SHL) with eight boards, while Barclay and Chase Novak split 10 evenly.

"We knew coming in that (Branden) Lynch and (Dylan) Gordon were going to be the biggest factors on the boards," Hawbaker said. "With me and Ethan playing the way we have the past couple games, we knew we could keep up with them and come out on top if we hustled and put all our effort into it." 

One thing that makes Hawbaker and Barclay so successful is how they feed off each other. While Barclay had a strong first half with eight points, Hawbaker picked up the pace and scored 13 of his 15 in the final half.

And although the pair hasn't had much varsity experience after a senior-laden team got most of the playing time last year, their ability to work together comes from years of experience. 

While Novak quickly moved up to varsity as a freshman, Hawbaker and Barclay have been side-by-side for five years now.

"Over the years, (Chance) has become a dominant force on this team," Barclay said. "I think our extra year we stayed down in junior high in ninth grade to get more experience and exposure, I think that really helped us as a team." 

Hawbaker said, "We do a lot of team stuff, going out to eat before and after the games just to keep us all on the same page. With all of us playing (together) for as long as we have, it really helps us out on the court. We know how each other plays." 

It also helps to be under the direction of Washabaugh, who was Barclay and Hawbaker's JV coach for the last two seasons.

"Maybe at the beginning of the season, (they struggled) a little bit," Washabaugh said. "But once we got in the swing of things, it really showed. We had a 12-0 January. So after the early little bit of hiccups, we've adjusted, and I think we're finishing well." 

And with team's best defenders typically on Novak, that frees up Hawbaker and Barclay to do their thing.

"We are aware of those guys, and we know that they are just as good of players," SF coach Kent Hendershot said. "But I don't think our guys picked it up and got enough stops when we needed to. We weren't doing the right things." 

Although Novak still leads the team in scoring (16.2 points per game), neither are far behind. Hawbaker's average is 11.9 ppg, and Barclay is chasing down a double-figure average, now sitting at 9.7 ppg. 

Watch: Best plays from So. Fulton vs. McConnellsburg boys hoops
Find out who had the three best plays in McConnellsburg's defeat of Southern Fulton on Friday night.
Video by Lizi Arbogast,