By Cam Huffman
The eight best teams in each of West Virginia’s high school boys basketball classes will invade Charleston beginning Wednesday morning, and four area squads will be part of the action, representing their schools and the region.
In Class AAA, Woodrow Wilson will be going for its 17th state championship. Bluefield is the favorite in Class AA and will be looking to continue its strong tradition as well, while trips to the capital city are a little more rare for Class AA Westside and Class A Greater Beckley Christian.
Here’s a look at those teams’ roads to Charleston, as well as what to expect in their first-round matchups.
Class AAA quarterfinal
11:15 — No. 2 Woodrow Wilson vs. No. 7 Hurricane
The Flying Eagles adopted the motto “refuse to lose” after a 4-4 start that included the first three-game home losing streak since the opening of the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
It was more than just a phrase to put on the back of T-shirts or on a team Facebook site. Beckley took those words to heart, winning 14 straight games to finish the regular season, moving from outside of the Class AAA top 10 to No. 2 in the state’s largest class.
The 18-4 regular season was impressive enough on its own, but Woodrow didn’t stop there. Behind the senior leadership of point guard Andrew Johnson, who has become more of a distributor but is still averaging 12.6 points per game, and the huge scoring numbers of junior Donté Nabors, a state player of the year candidate who’s averaging 21.1 points per game, Beckley topped county rival Shady Spring in the Region 3, Section 2 semifinals and then found revenge for one of its early losses, pounding Greenbrier East in the sectional championship to improve to 20-4.
To get to Charleston, Woodrow handled a determined Riverside team in a Region 3 co-final, pulling away late for its 17th straight victory.
Now 21-4, Woodrow will be as confident as any team in Charleston this week.
Hurricane, though, is playing its best basketball of the year right now, as well. Since falling to South Charleston 59-52 on Jan. 18, the Redskins have won 12 of their last 13 games. They beat Point Pleasant and then Nitro to win a sectional crown and then knocked off Logan in the regional final to punch their ticket to Charleston.
Now 20-5, Hurricane is led by sophomore guard Trey Dawson, who’s averaging 14.4 points, three assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Henry Sorsaia, a 6-foot-4 junior, is averaging 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest, and senior leader Rasaan Harris is filling up the stat sheet with 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
Woodrow and Hurricane met early in the season, a convincing Flying Eagle victory. Ahead 59-55 after three quarters, Woodrow pulled away with a dominating fourth quarter to win 83-66 on the road on Dec. 18.
Class A quarterfinal
9 p.m. — No. 4 Tucker County vs. No. 5 Greater Beckley
Greater Beckley Christian is making its first trip to Charleston since 2007, and the reward is certainly well deserved after a memorable season for the Crusaders.
Under the direction of head coach Dan Burd, GBC opened up the season with wins in 10 of its first 11 games. The only loss came on the road at Tug Valley, and the Crusaders nearly avenged that loss the second time around before falling 61-60 after a late mistake at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
GBC then finished out the regular season by winning a West Virginia Christian Athletic Tournament title and finding victories in seven of its last nine games to end the year with a 19-5 record.
In the postseason, the Crusaders defeated Sherman in the sectional semifinal, but Tug Valley was waiting again in the sectional final, and this one wasn’t close. The Panthers won 72-47 on their home floor, but GBC was able to bounce back, downing Valley in a region co-final to clinch a trip to the state tournament.
GBC is led by junior guard Javonne Staunton-Bailey, who’s averaging 18.1 points and 7.2 assists per game. Keith Mullins, the only senior on the team, is also posting huge numbers with 19.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per outing. Elisha Kidd, a sophomore guard, is the team’s third double-figure scorer, averaging 12.9 points and 3.7 boards per game.
Tucker County, though, isn’t used to losing, either. In fact, the Mountain Lions have come out on the short end just three times all year.
Two of those losses came against Class AAA Preston and the other against Morgantown’s Trinity Christian.
To make the state tournament, Tucker County defeated South Harrison and Notre Dame in sectional play and then knocked off East Hardy in a regional co-final.
Class AA quarterfinals
9:30 a.m. — No. 3 Westside vs. No. 6 Bridgeport
Considered by many as “the other team in Wyoming County” when the season began, Westside stepped out of Wyoming East’s shadow and into the spotlight with a memorable 2012-13 campaign.
After a roller coaster 6-5 start to the season that included losses to Tug Valley, Fairmont Senior (twice), Wyoming East and Logan, Westside didn’t look as though it had the team to break the drought and get back to Charleston for the first time under head coach Nick Cook, but something changed after that loss to Logan on Jan. 11.
Starting with a lopsided win over Man, Westside got on a roll. It avenged the loss to Tug Valley and then beat a strong Liberty team on the road.
The Renegades hung tough with Bluefield, before falling 67-56 at the Big Atlantic Classic, but it was the consolation game at that same tournament that really changed the season.
Westside got the monkey off its back, beating county rival Wyoming East in convincing fashion. That win started a string of seven straight to end the regular season.
Wyoming East went down again in that stretch, as did Liberty and Class AAA Shady Spring.
A sectional semifinal game against Independence brought about little trouble, and the Renegades beat Wyoming East for the third time in four tries this year to win the sectional title.
PikeView provided little resistance in the region co-final, and Westside punched its ticket to Charleston, moving up into a third seed with its 10th straight win.
Corey Bowles, a 6-2 junior, leads the Renegades in scoring with 18.3 points per game, followed closely by Justin Cogar, a sophomore center who’s chipping in 16.8 per contest. Levi Lambert, a junior forward, is averaging 12.5 points per game.
Bridgeport earned the trip to Charleston in difficult fashion, losing the sectional final to Robert C. Byrd and having to go on the road to Frankfort in a region co-final to get a spot in the tournament.
The Indians (19-7) handled their business there, winning 65-39.
Four-year starter Tyler Sprouse is one of the team’s top offensive weapons. He scored 12 points in the regional win. Jordan Haywood and John Wilfong can also shoot the basketball, and another Sprouse, Ryan, is a force on the boards.
5:30 p.m. — No. 1 Bluefield vs. No. 8 North Marion
Bluefield (22-3) has been the frontrunner in Class AA for most of the season. The Beavers’ only three losses came to strong Class AAA squads — twice to Princeton and once to Greenbrier East — and they beat some of the best in AA, including Wyoming East (three times), Westside and Robert C. Byrd. The memorable season included a 13-game winning streak and ended with a run of seven wins in eight games — the regular season finale with Princeton the only loss.
The Beavers — who played in the state title game last season, losing to Tug Valley, which is now in Class A — are led by 6-3 junior guard Anthony Eades, who’s scoring a little more than 20 points per game, and point guard Lykel Collier, who’s averaging 15 points and more than eight assists per outing. Michael Yost and D.J. Edwards are also in double figures, averaging around 12 each, making a game plan to slow down the offense a difficult task for the opponent.
North Marion took an unlikely path to Charleston, losing three of its last six games.
The Huskies (16-8) fell to Robert C. Byrd and Bridgeport during the last few weeks of the regular season and then dropped the sectional championship to Fairmont Senior after beating Oak Glen in the semifnal.
North Marion had to go on the road to a packed house at Webster County in a region co-final, but it came away with a victory in double overtime to secure a spot in the state tournament.
The Huskies — who have already played many of the top teams in the state and won’t be afraid of a challenge — are led by a pair of seniors and a junior all averaging around 12 points per game. Senior shooting guard Matt Cain is tops on that list, averaging 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. The other key senior, 6-3 Cameron Wilson, is chipping in 12.2 points and 3.3 assists per game, while 6-6 junior center Cody Opron is averaging 12.3 points and a team-best 8.2 rebounds per game.
He could provide matchup issues for the Beavers, who aren’t blessed with a great deal of size and have struggled against other big men at times this season.
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.