By Cam Huffman
Southern West Virginia had two No. 1-ranked girls basketball teams for most of the season and plenty of others in the top 10.
That’s a credit to a group of strong coaches, who build not just good teams but great programs.
Here’s the list of candidates for The Register-Herald Girls Coach of the Year, selected by the sports staff.
Debbie Ball (Princeton) — The veteran Tigerette coach took her team to Charleston, and she had to do it the hard way. With an undersized lineup, Princeton used some sharp outside shooting to go on the road and knock off George Washington in a regional co-final, after losing the sectional championship to Greenbrier East. Princeton ended the year with a 19-6 record, losing to eventual Class AAA runner-up Logan in the state quarterfinal round.
Jim Justice (Greenbrier East) — The Spartans won the Class AAA championship in 2012, but when two of the top stars on that squad — Anna Hammaker and Cheyanne Hooper — left go return to Tennessee, Greenbrier East was far from a favorite to repeat. But under Justice’s guidance, the Spartans finished the regular season undefeated and was ranked No. 1 in Class AAA throughout most of the season. They were upset in the regional co-final by Capital but still finished 24-1 and won a sectional title.
Jamie Lusk (Westside) — Lusk was also faced with the task of trying to repeat after the Renegades won the Class AA title in 2012, and his team also fell short, falling to Bridgeport in the Class AA championship game. But that’s about all that went wrong for Westside this season. Behind the play of all-stater Hope Lester, the Renegades lost just one regular season game — to Class AAA power University — and didn’t lose again until the championship. Lusk’s team finished 25-2, winning both sectional and regional championships.
Tom McGirl (Nicholas County) — McGirl’s Grizzlies accomplished something this season that had never been done before in the history of the school. Nicholas County, which finished the regular season 17-3 and then won three in the postseason to move to 20 wins and punch their ticket to the Class AA state tournament. It’s what happened there that made history. Nicholas County beat North Marion in the opening round for its first-ever state tournament win. They played tough in a loss to Bridgeport in the semifinals before bowing out with a 21-4 record.
Karen Miller (PikeView) — After losing five seniors and four starters to graduation, a third straight trip to the Class AA state tournament seemed like a longshot for the Panthers. But Miller’s squad came together, fought its way through a tough schedule and got back to Charleston, beating Class AA power Summers County in the regional co-final. The Panthers finished the season with a 14-11 record.
The Register-Herald sports staff — Cam Huffman (sports editor), Gary Fauber (assistant sports editor), Dan Stillwell (staff writer), J. Daniel Rollins (staff writer) and Rusty Udy (sports clerk) — will vote on the winner, and the award will be announced in the April 6 Register-Herald.
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