By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Sixty-one teams have given Pineville Middle School their best shot.
And all 61 went down to defeat.
The Lady Minutemen are currently 10-0 and riding a 61-game win streak that stretches back to when many of the players were in the fourth grade.
They’ve won four consecutive Wyoming County championships (fourth, fifth and sixth graders can play middle school ball) and are looking for a fifth.
“It’s team chemistry and hard work,” said Tim Lupardus, who coaches many of them in AAU ball and is the Pineville bookkeeper. “The core group started playing together in Biddy-Ball ball in kindergarten. They’re totally dedicated to the game.”
The Lady Minutemen have won under three head coaches — Terry Shumate (when the majority were in grades 4-5), Jim Cook (grade 6) and Ron “Chief” Mayhew (grades 7, 8) — by an average 40 points. The starters average playing just two quarters a game.
Their closest tussle was a 49-48 overtime win this season at Bluefield. Brooke Russell, the only seventh-grade starter, made a stickback at the buzzer to keep the win streak alive.
Before that, the tightest finish was a 14-point tournament semifinal win over Mullens when most of the team was in the fifth grade.
“They are defense first, rebounding second and the offense takes care of itself,” Lupardus said. “They’re one of the best passing teams I’ve seen. Just about every goal this team makes is assisted.”
It’s not a big team. Russell, who averages 15 points and 13 rebounds, is the tallest starter at 5-foot-8. Point guard Gabby Lupardus (15 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists) is next at 5-7, while center Allie Lusk (9 points, 15 boards) is just 5-6, but very strong.
Guards Misa Quesenberry (9 points, 4 assists) and Carla Cook (4 points) are very quick and give opponents fits.
All five starters play on the West Virginia Xpress AAU team, coached by Tim Lupardus, which won the 2013 eighth grade state championship.
Gabby Lupardus and Lusk also played last summer on the seventh grade AAU Division I national champions, the West Virginia Thunder out of Huntington. Lupardus was the point guard and Lusk was the sixth man.
“They don’t just hang it up at the end of (middle school) season,” Tim Lupardus said. “They’re year-round players.”
Rounding out the Lady Minutemen are Katie Wallen, Taylor Williams, Rhiannon Privett, Hannah Compton, Alexis Lester, Kayla Compton, Morgan Cook, Madison England and Lindsey Howard.
Lupardus said there are few complaints about playing time.
“All 14 generally play in the first half,” he said. “The coaches have been good about getting kids on the floor.
“They have fun. They’re quite an entertaining group to be around.”
Pineville, which has had six games snowed out, will attempt to stretch the win streak to 62 games Monday against visiting Glen Fork.