The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 22, 2013

Basketball fever never ends

Roundball never out of season in Wyoming County

Southern West Virginia is known for its four seasons: Winter, spring, summer and autumn. But in Wyoming County, there’s only one season that matters, and it lasts 365 days a year.

Basketball season.

For generations, boys and girls have spent their summers playing in pickup games, going to camps and preparing themselves for the high school season.

The boys of Westside and Wyoming East are no different.

“They’re absolutely about to wear me out,” Westside coach Nick Cook said with a laugh.

The Renegades have had a busy summer.

“We’ve been up at Robert C. Byrd and in Morgantown at tournaments,” Cook said. “I’m starting to wear down.”

Cook said he’s giving his team a break, but it may be more to rest his own bones than theirs.

“They’re wanting to go somewhere every weekend,” he added.

They’ve already won two shootouts in Logan, and have played in Charleston and in Charlotte, N.C., where they were knocked out in the semifinals by a single point.

It’s all part of the bigger picture for Westside, which became one of southern West Virginia’s hottest teams late in the season, before bowing out in the first round of the state tournament to Bridgeport 79-71 — a defeat Westside avenged this week, when it beat Bridgeport by 15 in a summer league game.

Cook is excited for his team, and why shouldn’t he be? The Renegades return a host of veterans and only lost one player — Jason Scarlett — to graduation.

“It’s nice. I don’t have to spend too much time working on the basics with them,” Cook said. “They’re starting to learn what I want and make their own calls.”

Cook expects to run a small lineup this season, utilizing four guards and a forward in Justin Cogar, who has impressed his coach already.

“He’s better than ever,” Cook said. “He’s gained strength and using his body better.”

Cook says that while his team looks forward to its battle with Wyoming East in the winter, they have a new goal — the state championship.

“They look at the bigger picture,” Cook said. “They’ve got over that hump of beating East and are looking at the bigger picture.”

While the Renegades are looking at the bigger picture, the Warriors of Wyoming East are licking their chops, ready to seek revenge for the three losses they suffered to Westside last year.

“They’re excited to play Westside,” East coach Rory Chapman said. “It’s a rivalry. It’s starting to get heated back up.”

Much like their cross-county rivals, Wyoming East returns a veteran core, led by seniors Josh Tunstalle, Austin Canada and Christian Hedinger.

But they’ll have a hard time matching the production of Brett Bowling, who will attend Fork Union Military Academy.

“I think losing Brett’s ability to score early is going to hamper us,” Chapman said. “But we have some other guys that are going to have to step up.”

Aside from his three returning senior starters, Chapman has seen good production from the Lester brothers, Cody and Tyler.

“Tyler has played really well, but hurt his knee, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Chapman said.

Chapman also feels a lighter, more balanced schedule will help the Warriors in the 2013-14 season.

“I may have hurt us last year with our schedule,” Chapman said. “We’re looking for more teams to play right now.”

Wyoming East will play a home and home with Greenbrier East this season, and will also return to the Big Atlantic Classic.

“We’re going to keep working hard,” Chapman said. “Every night, we’ll come out prepared.”

— E-mail: jrollins@ and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.

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