The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 22, 2014

Girls sectional tournaments will be intriguing

By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer

— As high school girls basketball teams enter sectional tournament play, it’s no longer a matter of who will win.

The question is who will survive.

Only the winner and runner-up of each section will advance to the regional co-finals for a chance to play in the state tournament, March 12-15 at the Charleston Civic Center.

For the other teams, softball, track and tennis await.

There are clear sectional favorites. Greenbrier East (19-1) in Class AAA Region 3, Section 2, and Fayetteville (14-6) in Class A Region 3, Section 2 are both playing well and have dominated regular season play against their sectional foes.

Nothing can be taken for granted, however, as then-unbeaten Greenbrier East discovered last year in a stunning loss to Capital in the regionals.

And then there’s Class AA.

Three Region 3 teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 — Summers County (18-2) is second, Westside (15-2) is third and PikeView (16-3) is eighth.

At least one of those teams won’t be going to states. None has a guarantee.

During the campaign, Summers and Westside defeated each other on their own courts. PikeView and Summers likewise split games. Westside beat PikeView twice, but the second time, at Clear Fork, was only a one-point win (56-55).

Bluefield (9-8) and Wyoming East (11-7) have clawed their way into the mix as well. Bluefield gave Summers County fits in their first meeting, a 79-73 win in four overtimes for the Lady Bobcats, and also played PikeView tough, 61-56, before falling.

Wyoming East improved 22 points from its first to second losses to Summers, and dropped a five-point match to PikeView.

The heat is certainly on. Should Westside and Summers County reach the Section 1 final, they’ll know the loser will most likely have to win at PikeView to reach states.

And speaking of anybody’s game to win, Independence and Liberty will begin their postseason with a 1 p.m. Class AA Region 3, Section 1 matchup today at Glen Daniel.

Their records aren’t the greatest, but both squads are young and scrappy, and won in the regular season on each other’s courts.

Independence (5-16) prevailed 55-39 Dec. 19 at Glen Daniel, while Liberty (4-14) came away a 46-37 winner Jan. 15 at Coal City.

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It’s been a wonderful season for freshmen.

Greenbrier East’s Sydney Nunley can block shots with the best of state centers, and any questions about her offensive play were put to rest during the Big Atlantic Classic.

Shady Spring’s Abby Gwinn and Fayetteville’s Kendall Malay also play inside, but their ballhandling (Malay is a former point guard) and smooth shooting make them superb offensive threats.

Summers County twins Brittney and Whittney Justice are the latest sister act at the school, which has had various Browns, Gunnoes, Mills and Newsomes lead the way to five of the Lady Bobcats’ seven state titles.

Brittney is a forward, while Whittney is a point guard. That distinction is minimal, because both shoot, rebound, handle the ball and play tough defense. Either can light up the scoreboard. Double-trouble, period.

Woodrow Wilson 2-guard Aaliyah Williams just might be the area’s deadliest 3-point threat, and she’s beginning to create off her own dribble.

Wyoming East’s Megan Davis, sister of Westside starters Faith and Hope Davis, was a fine defender from the get-go, and her ball distributing and shooting skills are rapidly developing.

If this season is any indication, fans should sit back and enjoy the ride. These seven ninth-graders are special.

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