The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 7, 2014

Several area teams in poll

1st regular season rankings released

The newest Associated Press West Virginia Boys Basketball Poll was released Monday, and, as usual, basketball teams in southern West Virginia are garnering plenty of respect.

In Class AAA, the highest-rated team is Greenbrier East. The Spartans came in at No. 5 after a 6-2 start and a win over 2013 state runner-up Woodrow Wilson. The Flying Eagles came in at No. 10.

In Class AA, defending champion Bluefield is back on top, a unanimous No. 1 from the nine voters — comprised of media members around the state who regularly cover prep basketball — after a 5-0 start. Another area team, Westside (4-1), is No. 2, despite Saturday’s loss to Wyoming East. The Warriors (4-0) were ranked No. 4.

A newcomer to the poll which wasn’t ranked in the preseason is Liberty. The Raiders are off to an impressive 5-1 start that includes a win over Class AAA Shady Spring. Nicholas County is knocking on the door of the top 10. The Grizzlies are the first team in the “others receiving votes” category, seven points behind Liberty.

Greater Beckley Christian (5-0) is turning some heads in Class A. The Crusaders haven’t really been challenged, even during a holiday tournament in the Washington, D.C., area. GBC came in at No. 5 in this week’s poll. Valley, which saw its perfect start snapped with a loss to Midland Trail on Saturday, is the top team receiving votes, just one point behind No. 10 Buffalo.

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This week’s schedule — barring any further weather problems — should include some interesting matchups among some of these ranked teams.

Greenbrier East, which lost to Class AA No. 2 Westside at home earlier this season, will have another chance against a Class AA power when it hosts No. 1 Bluefield on Friday.

Class AA No. 2 Westside and No. 10 Liberty were scheduled to play today in Glen Daniel. That game, however, was rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 13.

Greater Beckley has a chance to make a statement Friday when it hosts Class A No. 4 Tug Valley, the defending state champion. That Top 5 matchup will be played inside the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

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Woodrow Wilson’s No. 10 ranking in the latest poll, despite a 1-2 start, is a sign of respect for the program’s history, which includes a record 16 state championships. It also probably has a lot to do with the fact that the Flying Eagles overcame a 4-4 start to win 19 straight games and advance all the way to the Class AAA championship game last season. Voters obviously haven’t forgotten that run.

The record may be a little deceiving, as well. The two losses came on the road against No. 2 Huntington and No. 5 Greenbrier East, and both were competitive games.

Woodrow has also been playing at less than full strength. Starting point guard and first-team all-stater Donte Nabors missed the game at Greenbrier East after injuring his ankle in the Flying Eagles’ lone win over Oak Hill. He said Saturday he’s feeling better and expects to be back next week.

Junior Brent Osborne hasn’t played yet this season because of a knee injury he suffered while starting as the Flying Eagles quarterback during football season. He was cleared to play on Monday and expects to be back in the lineup soon.

“I think they will make a big difference,” said head coach Ron Kidd. “We’ll be glad to get them back.”

Kidd, however, did admit that playing without two key contributors could make his team better in the long run.

“I think it can help us,” he said. “It gives other guys experience play, especially in a big atmosphere.”

Woodrow was supposed to be back in action tonight at St. Albans, but that game has been canceled due to weather conditions. The next scheduled game is Thursday at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center against Spring Valley. Tipoff for that contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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Missing from Saturday’s Greenbrier East-Woodrow Wilson game was Spartan athletic director Jerry Bradley, the longtime East coach who had some classic battles in the series against Woodrow’s legendary coach Dave Barksdale.

Bradley has been hospitalized at the University of Virginia Medical Center since Sept. 5, but was transferred to the Brian Center in Low Moor, Va., about 30 minutes from Lewisburg, for rehabilitation on Dec. 31. He’s continuing to make progress and has kept track of the Spartans, listening to every game on WRON radio.

— E-mail: chuffman@ and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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