The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 22, 2013

Bluefield boys, Westside and Greenbrier East girls still No. 1

A look at the Associated Press West Virginia high school basketball polls that were released Monday revealed one noticeable similarity — undefeated Greenbrier East squads near the top in Class AAA.

The only undefeated boys team in the state at any level, the Spartan boys, who improved to 13-0 Monday with a 67-59 win over Rockbridge (Va.) High School, are No. 4 in Class AAA, coming in behind South Charleston (11-1), Morgantown (10-1) and Martinsburg (11-1) in the state’s largest class.

The defending Class AAA champion Lady Spartans, meanwhile, are (9-0) and a unanimous choice for the No. 1 spot, ahead of No. 2 University (11-2), No. 3 Spring Valley (12-2) and No. 4 Morgantown (11-4). The Greenbrier East girls are the only undefeated team in Class AAA. Class AA No. 1 Westside, which moved to 13-0 by beating Independence Monday, and Class A No. 4 Clay-Battelle (13-0) are the only other perfect teams.

“It’s something really special,” said Jim Justice, who coaches both of the Greenbrier East teams. “Of course I’m happy for my assistant coaches and my players and all of that, but I’m really excited for the school. It’s a great school, and they deserve something like this.”

While there are obvious similarities between the two East squads, including the coach, the teams have reached their unblemished marks in two very different ways.

The girls have exceeded all expectations, performing at a championship level, even after losing both Anna Hammaker and Cheyenne Hooper — two all-state selections, who were a huge part of the state title run last year — before the season even began.

They’ve been a work in progress, and Justice admits they’ve come a long way since the first practice.

While the girls team overcame some key subtractions, the Spartan boys benefited greatly from a couple of key additions, senior point guard Bryce Woodliff and junior forward Rondale Watson. The teams top two scorers helped East become the surprise of the season on the boys side, even winning at Woodrow Wilson for the first time in almost three decades.

Keeping those records intact will become more and more difficult in the coming weeks.

The overachieving girls team will face a major test today when it travels to Charleston Catholic to face a squad whose 3-5 record isn’t overly impressive, but it took Class AA No. 4 Summers County to the wire last week.

Then it’s on to the King Coal Classic, where it will face another quality opponent in Logan.

The boys, meanwhile, after surviving a legitimate threat from Rockbridge, will also be in Logan at the King Coal Classic, facing Tug Valley and Logan.

Both teams will participate in next week’s Big Atlantic Classic at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center and face some of the state’s best talent.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Justice admitted. “But that’s the way we like it. We want to face the best every night.”

While the Spartan teams certainly have Greenbrier County buzzing, they’re far from the only area squads who are making their mark on the state polls.

On the boys side, Princeton (10-2) was the other area team in the Class AAA rankings, coming in at No. 8. Woodrow Wilson received a single vote after ending a three-game losing streak last week.

Bluefield (8-1) led the way in Class AA, holding down the top spot. Wyoming East (9-2) moved up to No. 3, with Westside (8-5) holding down the No. 10 spot. Liberty received five votes and ranked No. 12.

In Class A, Valley (6-2) held steady at No. 8. Greater Beckley Christian (6-1) moved up a spot to No. 9, and Greenbrier West (7-2) dropped one spot to No. 10.

The rankings set up some interesting matchups this week.

The first comes today in a battle of two of the top AA teams when No. 10 Westside visits No. 12 Liberty.

Woodrow Wilson will have a chance to make a statement Thursday when the 14th-ranked Flying Eagles host No. 9 Princeton in a Class AAA clash.

When it comes to the ladies, Princeton (10-2), which came in at No. 5, is the only other area AAA team in the polls beside Greenbrier East.

Westside has plenty of company, though, in Class AA. Nicholas County (13-1) moved up two spots in Class AA and is now No. 3. Summers County (11-2) is tied with Clay County at fourth. Mount View (4) and Bluefield (2) received votes.

Pocahontas County (11-4) is the top area team in Class A, moving up from eighth to sixth. Valley (8-2) came in at No. 8. Meadow Bridge (2) and Fayetteville (2) received votes.

The ranked matchups to watch this week on the girls side include AA No. 4 Summers County at AAA No. 5 Princeton on Tuesday. On Saturday, No. 1 Westside will be at No. 4 Summers County in a key Class AA battle.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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