The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 13, 2013

Rivalry, pride fuel A/AA game

By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer

BECKLEY — At events like UFC, boxing and Wrestlemania, it’s often the undercard that steals the show. The same could possibly be said about tonight’s A-AA game at the Scott Brown Classic.

While many eyes will be on the national main event, the all-star players making up the Class A and Class AA rosters are playing with a chip on their shoulder.

“We’re the best in the state,” Independence’s Shane Greco said. “We’ve got to handle these single A boys.”

His opponent may have a little something to say about that.

“The single A schools, we don’t get a lot of respect,” Greenbrier West’s Josh Martin said. “It’d be good to get out here and beat them.”

His teammate, Greater Beckley Christian’s Keith Mullins, echoed those comments.

“We’re the lowest class in the state, of course,” he said. “All of those schools have the least amount of kids and they don’t think we’re any good. We’re just as good and we’ll show it.”

The Class A team is loaded with talent. Mullins and Martin are joined by first-team all-staters Austin Brewer and Mikey Newsome, and their state championship Tug Valley teammate Aaron Muncy. It will be the first time Mullins has played alongside his former rivals.

“It’s hard to believe we’re teammates,” Mullins said. “We battled and played them three times this season, and unfortunately we lost. Now we’re teammates and we’re going to try to win tomorrow.”

“It’s going to be real fun,” C. Adam Toney Class A All-Stars and Tug Valley coach Garland Thompson said. “It will be a good time; looking forward to an exciting brand of basketball. They’ll get up and down the court and play a lot of offense.”

One player who is no stranger to playing high-quality, high-impact offense is Class AA first-team all-state captain Brett Morris.

Morris averaged 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game for Webster County.

“Everybody on this team is a great player,” Morris said. “We’ve got the best team in AA here. It’s gonna be a fun time.”

Joining Morris on the Jan-Care Class AA All-Stars are a trio of towering local players in 6-foot-4 Brett Bowling of Wyoming East, 6-8 Josh Gunnoe of James Monroe and Greco, who is 6-7.

Bowling isn’t used to having players larger than him as teammates. He’s expecting it to create a new wrinkle in the gameplan.

“I don’t know, I may get to play some guard,” Bowling said with a chuckle. “We have some good big men on our team.”

Having a size advantage is one that Class AA coach Bill Bennett of Robert C. Byrd is relishing.

“Those big guys, geez-o-wee!” Bennett said. “Even the smaller guys are bigger guys.”

While all-star games are mainly known for their high offensive efforts — and low defensive efforts — expect this game to be played a little bit differently.

“It’s an all-star game, but with a lot of kids, they have the ability to play after their senior season. A lot of them haven’t made a commitment and this is their opportunity to go out there and show what they can do,” Bennett said. “College coaches don’t want players who take a lot of bad shots. They want kids who can really play and play tough defense.”

That doesn’t mean there might not be a few highlight reel performances.

“The single A team told me I’m only allowed to have one dunk,” Morris said. “I kind of take that as a challenge. I may have to throw four or five down on them.”

He’ll likely have a 6-7 defender in his face if he does.

“Brett Morris, they beat us this season,” Martin said. “Now it’s my turn to beat him.”

The Class A-AA all-star game will tip off at 4 p.m. today at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

— E-mail: jrollins@ and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.