The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 5, 2014

Area girls powerhouses remain undefeated

Greenbrier East, Westside, Summers off to fine starts

Greenbrier East, Westside and Summers County were the last three area girls basketball teams to win state championships.

They’ve got their eyes on the same prize this season. After a little over a month of play, the three squads are still unbeaten.

East is 7-0, following wins Dec. 27-28 over Point Pleasant and Preston County in the Spartan Holiday Tournament in Fairlea. Jim Justice’s club was the 2012 Class AAA state champion, and was undefeated last year before losing a stunner to unheralded Capital in the Region 3 co-finals.

Summers downed Chapmanville 73-56 Saturday in a tournament at Charleston Catholic. Wayne Ryan’s 6-0 club won five straight championships, from 2007-2011, but was rocked by injuries the past two seasons.

Westside has played just four games, but two were quality wins over Class AA regional rivals Bluefield and PikeView, and the others came over tough competition in a tournament in Kentucky Dec. 20-21.

Jamie Lusk’s Lady Renegades won the 2012 AA title, but fell short to Bridgeport and state player of the year Miki Glenn in last year’s final at the Charleston Civic Center.

All three teams have shown quality play, from both starters and the bench.

n Not surprisingly, the area’s top three scorers are from each of the undefeated teams. Summers senior center Brandy Morrison has been phenomenal, scoring at a 31.2-point clip for the Lady Bobcats.

Although slender in size, Morrison has worked hard in the weight room and uses her length and quickness for added advantage.

While Ryan is getting solid play from all eight or nine players in his rotation, twin freshmen Whittney (13.4 ppg) and Brittney Justice are definite stars of the future.

n It’s Chaunté McDowell’s turn to shine at Greenbrier East, and the senior guard has risen to the occasion. She played somewhat in the background behind all-stater Bianca André the past two seasons, but she’s come on strong to average 23.1 points for the Lady Spartans.

Newcomer Sidney Nunley averages 11.3 points, giving East a strong inside presence to complement McDowell’s play on the outside.

n State player of the year candidate Hope Lester is averaging 22.5 points on a team where the top eight or nine players are capable of double figures, depending on who is hitting.

Lester wowed fans at the Civic Center with her all-around play as a freshman. Few centers have her ballhandling ability, not to mention her shooting touch. Since then she’s worked not only to extend her range — she’s now a definite threat from beyond the 3-point arc — but also to drive to the basket.

Although Westside has had a long break from actual games, the time off might have been a good thing for Lusk’s charges. Several players were in slumps, and all-state guard Danielle Brown has battled injury.

n There’s quality beyond the three undefeateds. PikeView is 7-1, having lost a tough one to Westside early in the season. Lyndsey Hatfield is sixth in area scoring at 15.8 ppg.

Bluefield, Wyoming East, Webster County and Pocahontas County are each 6-2. Bluefield stopped Wyoming East Saturday night, 61-49, in a foul-marred game at the Brushfork Armory.

Webster has won six consecutive games after opening the season with two losses in the Rogers Oil Classic in Hinton. Pocahontas is 5-1 since going 1-1 in the same tournament and has two players in the area Top 10 in scoring, Tristin Day (18.8) and Bobbie McNabb (15.8).

Three other teams playing at or above .500 are Fayetteville (4-3), Midland Trail (4-2) and Nicholas County (3-3).

Freshman Kendall Malay is eighth in area scoring with a 14.3 average for Fayetteville.

— E-mail: dstillwell@register-herald.com; Register-Herald sports clerk Rusty Udy contributed statistics for this story.

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