It all comes down to one.
After months of regular season play and weeks of do-or-die postseason games, Woodrow Wilson and Martinsburg high schools will take the court at the Charleston Civic Center at 7:15 p.m. today to play for the Class AAA state championship.
Here’s a look at what to expect in tonight’s primetime matchup.
About the Bulldogs
Martinsburg’s path to the state finals included very few hurdles. The top-seeded Bulldogs (25-2) lost only at Morgantown on Jan. 19 and then a week later at Cleveland Vailla-Angela St. Joseph High School in Ohio a week later.
Other than that, Martinsburg was untouchable, ending the season on a 10-game winning streak and then taking care of business against Huntington and Washington — their fourth win over the Patriots this season — in Charleston to advance to the title game.
About the Flying Eagles
Woodrow’s start was not what’s expected when it comes to Beckley basketball. The Flying Eagles were 4-4 on Jan. 10, had lost three of four games and had lost three in a row for the first time ever at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
It was after a loss to Winfield that the Flying Eagles adopted the motto of “refuse to lose,” and they took it seriously.
Since that night, Woodrow (23-4) has won 19 straight games. It’s a perfect 5-0 in the postseason, beating Shady Spring and Greenbrier East to win the sectional and then downing Riverside in the region co-final to punch their ticket to Charleston.
The Flying Eagles held off a determined Hurricane squad to win in the state quarterfinals and then beat South Charleston for the second time in the semifinals to advance.
Who to watch
Donte’ Grantham — The 6-foot-7 senior forward, who has scholarship offers from Clemson and other basketball powers, averages nearly 19 points and eight rebounds per game. He can score inside and out, shooting 42 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range. His size can cause problems, but the 200-pounder is much more than a big body, with the athleticism to run the floor like a guard.
Grantham scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the semifinal win over Washington.
Jalen Lewis — The 6-foot-2 senior captain is the source of a lot of offense, whether scoring on his own or setting up his teammates. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 4.3 assists per game and shoots 40 percent from 3-point range.
Donté Nabors — The Flying Eagles standout junior guard is averaging 21 points per game and is one of the best jump shooters you will find in the state. He’s also a relentless defender, and, the son of assistant coach Gene Nabors, he plays with a big basketball IQ.
Andrew Johnson — The senior point guard was the quarterback of the Beckley football team, and he serves the same type of role on the court. He can score when points are needed, as he proved with a team-high 20 in the quarterfinal win over Hurricane, but he’s more than content as a distributor, setting up Nabors and Chase Hancock and feeding the post to freshman Nequan Carrington.
Woodrow Wilson is going for its record 17th boys basketball championship. The Flying Eagles last won in 2008. Head coach Ron Kidd will be looking for his third, having also won in 2004.
Woodrow will be playing in its 25th championship game, also a record.
Martinsburg has won a pair of state championships, the last in 2009 when it beat South Charleston. The other came in 1994 when the Bulldogs beat DuPont.
The Flying Eagles and Bulldogs met for the state championship in 1990, with Beckley claiming an 81-75 victory.
How they matchup
Both teams are loaded with athletes, and both are more than content to run up and down the floor. Martinsburg has a clear size advantage with Grantham and 6-foot-5 center Eugene German but Woodrow may be the better defensive team, using its pressure to create turnovers. When it does, it’s almost unstoppable in transition.
What they’re saying
Martinsburg head coach Dave Rogers — “They like to run the fastbreak, they like to shoot 3s and they get up and down the floor. We’re going to have a size advantage, but they’re very athletic.”
Woodrow Wilson head coach Ron Kidd — “I haven’t had a chance to see them play, but my assistants did and they’ll get a scouting report ready. I know they’re going to be a good team, but we’ll be ready to play.”
Want to watch?
If you can’t make it to Charleston, you can still see tonight’s game live. Suddenlink Channel 2 will broadcast the game beginning at 7 p.m. A replay will be available at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Look for updates throughout the game on Twitter by following CamHuffmanRH. After the game, visit www.register-herald.com for statistics, reaction, photos and more. Then pick up Sunday’s Register-Herald and read all about the action in Charleston.
— E-mail: chuffman@
It all comes down to one.
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