Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
SCIOTOVILLE — When anyone thinks about Portsmouth East’s basketball program, the first set of players that are mentioned are Will Shope and Kyle Flannery.
And rightfully so.
Both Shope get to the rack at will, both shoot from all three levels of the court, both are quick, and both are handfuls defensively, as well.
Perhaps more importantly, they’re both intense competitors who love their team and program — so it’s only fitting that the senior backcourt duo reached the 1,000 point plateau on the same evening.
Shope and Flannery, who will each be playing college ball during the 2019-20 campaign, hit 1,000 points this past Tuesday against Clay.
For the set of friends, accomplishing 1,000 is already special, but doing so together takes an even higher meaning.
“It feels amazing to have scored my 1,000th,” Shope said. “Being able to do it after playing behind our school’s all-time leading scorer for two years, battling a knee injury for part of the season, and scoring it with not only my teammate, but one of my best friends in the same game, is an amazing feat. I’m just glad I can share the joy of doing it with him.”
Flannery shared the same sentiments.
“Scoring 1,000 felt really good and exciting,” Flannery said. “It’s a great accomplishment for any high school kid to do it. However, to do it with a teammate is just different. It makes it more special. Will and I grew up around each other and have been teammates for a while. To do it with him is really special. I’m glad hime and I did it together.”
Both Flannery and Shope are players who can create their offense through their defensive efforts. Flannery’s exceptional athletic ability has allowed the senior to prove himself as an effective on- and off-ball defender, while Shope’s discipline in his defensive posture has been equally effective.
Offensively, Flannery has arguably one of the deepest ranges you’ll see. Shope, meanwhile, has improved from a spot-up shooter to a guy who can shoulder the primary ball-handling load. Both players have earned all-Southeast District honors during their careers, but have also played their roles effectively behind players like Akia Brown, Blaine Scott, and Drew Lowe.
“It’s been an amazing experience to play with a player like him … someone who is insanely athletic and makes acrobatic shots consistently while being, in my opinion, one of the best players in the area,” Shope said of Flannery. “It has taken a lot of pressure off, definitely. Then, as a whole, I definitely hit the weight room. From being a spot-up shooter during my freshman and sophomore years, to having to be one of the people with the scoring load, and being a leader, it’s definitely changed the way I’ve trained.”
When Shope is playing well, it gives Flannery a cushion to work with.
“When Will is playing well, it allows me to do the things I’m capable of,” Flannery said. “I’m a lot quicker than most people who try to defend me as well, which helps. Will is smart, so he knows what to do with the ball, which helps me in other ways. But we both know when we are on, to get the ball to one another.”
While Shope and Flannery have certainly seen their fair share of ups and downs, the ups far outweigh the downs. In 2016, Shope, as a freshman, hit the shot of a lifetime — one that arguably ranks as one of the greatest, if not the greatest in East history. In a 59-58 victory over Belpre, Shope’s shot propelled the Tartans to the program’s first district final since 2013.
“It felt so surreal,” Shope said of the winning basket. “I honestly wasn’t expecting the pass from Akia [Brown]. So when I made it, I was so happy to be able to celebrate with my team. It’s a moment I’ll remember the rest of my life. As a team, that was an amazing play set up by coach, and executed perfectly.”
Flannery admired the moment so much as a teammate that the play serves as his favorite basketball memory, as well.
“It’s when Will made the game-winning shot my freshman year at the Convo,” Flannery said. “The play that was drawn up was so well-executed, and to win a game at the Convo was amazing.”
Throughout their time as Tartans, Shope and Flannery have also been blessed with stability in the form of East head coach Adam Bailey. With the veteran leader at the helm, there are two guarantees with the Tartans — they’ll be playing better basketball at the end of the season than at the beginning, and they’ll be a team that can’t be slept on by any means.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” Shope said of Bailey’s instruction. “He’s taught me so much, not only about the game of basketball, but how to be a good, genuine person as well. It’s been an honor playing under him, and I wouldn’t rather play for anyone else.”
For Flannery, his athleticism has paid off in multiple sports. In addition to playing tennis in the spring, the 5-foot-11 guard has excelled as a member of the Tartans’ offensive and defensive backfields in the fall, accumulating 14 interceptions and rushing for 1,684 yards and 24 touchdowns during his career.
He helped lead East to, arguably, its best back-to-back seasons in program history as the Tartans went a perfect 10-0 in the regular season and obtained a SOC I Championship in 2016, before following that up with a 9-3 campaign in 2017 and the program’s first-ever playoff victory — a 16-8 victory over Waterford on the road.
It’s the memories obtained in those pair of special football seasons that arguably serve as Flannery’s greatest.
“My favorite is my sophomore year of football when we played Notre Dame,” Flannery said. “During the 10th game of the season, it was the fourth quarter and there was under 1:30 left on the clock. They were on our 20-yard line and they tried a trick play. I had the game-winning interception to seal the game, win the SOC I Championship, and go 10-0. The memory I’ll have of being a part of the first-ever playoff win in East history is another amazing memory. We played so well as a team against Waterford and wanted it really bad.”
For both Flannery and Shope, success hasn’t always come easy, and in fact, it hasn’t always resulted in a positive win-loss record at the end of the year.
However, the experiences the pair have had the fortune of taking in at East High School has made them better people, which will help them in all walks of life.
“I’m always going to be able to look back and think about all the memories I’ve made with amazing people, and hopefully all of the things that I’ve been taught over my years at East, and use it at the next level,” Shope said. “Everyone has been so supportive during my four years, and I wouldn’t change a single thing or person that has been a part of my career.”
As usual, Flannery echoed those same words.
“It’s meant a lot to have my family by my side through everything, especially my Dad,” Flannery said. “He’s played the biggest role in my schooling and sports, and I wouldn’t be where I am without him. As far as friends go, I’m glad they have always believed in me and know when they need something to happen, they can rely on me to make the big play. It just shows they trust me. I hope they know I’m there for them whenever they need me.”