By Cam Huffman
While southern West Virginia is often on the outside looking in when it comes to football, that’s definitely not the case in basketball, and that point was emphasized again Monday when The Associated Press released its West Virginia boys’ and girls’ basketball polls.
On the boys side, seven area teams found their way into the polls in the three classes.
Greenbrier East (9-0) led the way in Class AAA, coming in at No. 4 behind only Martinsburg (7-0), Hedgesville (9-0) and South Charleston (6-1). Princeton (7-1) was No. 6, and Woodrow Wilson (4-2) came in tied for No. 7 with Preston.
In Class AA, Bluefield (4-1) was No. 2, while Wyoming East was No. 5. Summers County and Westside were knocking on the door as the top two teams receiving votes outside the top 10. Mount View and Liberty also received votes.
In Class A, Greenbrier West (7-1) was No. 8, while Valley (3-0) was just behind at No. 9. Greater Beckley Christian was the top team receiving votes in that class.
The girls also put seven area teams in the polls.
In Class AAA, Greenbrier East (8-0) led the way at No. 1 ahead of University (8-1), while Princeton (6-1) was tied with Morgantown at No. 3.
Westside (8-0) was on top of the Class AA poll, while Summers County (7-1) was fourth. Nicholas County (8-1) came in at No. 5. James Monroe, PikeView and Bluefield all received votes.
Pocahontas County (8-3) was the top area team in Class A, ranked No. 6. Valley (6-0) was just one spot back at No. 7. Meadow Bridge and Fayetteville received votes.
Having so many teams in the rankings really means very little when it comes to the postseason — they’ll all have a chance to get to Charleston in sectional and regional play — but it definitely creates some interesting matchups, including some can’t-miss showdowns this week.
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 3 South Charleston (6-1) at No. 7 Woodrow Wilson (4-2)
This is a huge game for the Flying Eagles, who are trying to avoid an unheard-of three-game losing streak at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. They lost their last two home games to Greenbrier East and Parkersburg and need a win tonight to get back on track.
Woodrow has a couple of quality wins over Class AAA No. 10 Huntington and Class AA No. 5 Wyoming East on its resumé, but it needs a victory tonight if it wants to remain in the top 10 and keep its home court advantage as one of the best in West Virginia.
No. 10 Huntington (5-1) at No. 6 Princeton (7-1)
Princeton has already beaten Bluefield, James Monroe and Shady Spring in impressive fashion, as well as picking up an 11-point win over a strong Patrick Henry squad out of Virginia. Its only loss was a 2-point defeat to No. 3 South Charleston.
Still, some are hesitant to believe in the Tigers, who could make a statement with a win tonight.
Huntington is in a similar boat. It started the year on a roll, blowing out Cabell Midland, Capital, Parkersburg and Logan, but the lopsided loss at Woodrow Wilson, 83-63, has many questioning whether the Highlanders are contenders or pretenders.
Summers County (5-2) at No. 5 Wyoming East (6-1)
Which is the real Summers County? The group of Bobcats that beat Shady Spring, Liberty, James Monroe and Greenbrier West, or the squad that lost back-to-back games to Meadow Bridge and Charleston Catholic, neither in close fashion?
The Bobcats were just one vote away from a spot in the Class AA top 10, and a win tonight against a group of Warriors who are definitely contenders would surely get them the respect they feel they deserve.
No. 2 Bluefield (4-1) at No. 5 Wyoming East (6-1)
If Wyoming East gets past Summers County tonight, the next one could be a classic. Bluefield and Wyoming East both look to be legitimate state championship contenders, and this game could be an early postseason preview.
Greater Beckley Christian (4-0) at No. 5 Tug Valley (4-1)
The Crusaders’ 4-0 start has been overlooked by many, but Greater Beckley came up just four votes shy of a top 10 spot in this week’s poll. They will really turn some heads if they can hand Tug Valley its second loss of the year.
No. 8 Greenbrier West (7-1) at No. 9 Valley (3-0)
Greenbrier West is legitimate. Valley still has something to prove.
The Greyhounds, though, can definitely answer some questions with a win against the Cavaliers. The winner of this game is likely to shoot up toward the top five by the time next week’s poll is released.
James Monroe (6-2) at No. 4 Summers County (7-1)
After opening up with lopsided losses to Nicholas County and Summers County, the Mavericks have bounced back with six straight wins. Is it just competition, or has James Monroe really made that much improvement? We’ll find out tonight as the Mavericks try to avenge a 61-47 defeat to Summers County, the state’s most decorated girls basketball program.
No. 1 Westside (8-0) at Wyoming East (5-3)
Wyoming East has struggled for most of the year, but this is a rivalry game. The Renegades should dominate, but anything can happen in a game like this.
No. 5 Nicholas County (8-1) at James Monroe (6-2)
The Grizzlies, who nearly ended Greenbrier East’s state title run before it even got to Charleston last year, is now in Class AA and making some noise. They defeated the Mavericks 55-26 in the season opener, but this time they’ll have to be in Monroe County, and they’ll have to be careful not to overlook a James Monroe team that looks to be much improved.
BY THE NUMBERS
4 — Four area boys players are averaging more than 20 points per game. Summers County’s TaRon Ayers leads the way, averaging 25.9 points per game, followed closely by Greenbrier East’s Rondale Watson at 24.8. Chase Connor of Shady Spring is averaging 23.8 points per outing, while WVU verbal commitment Levi Cook is scoring 22.6 per game at Liberty.
Woodrow Wilson’s Donte Nabors and Greater Beckley Christian’s Keith Mullins are knocking on the door of the 20-point mark, averaging 19.7 and 19.5 points per game, respectively.
27 — Connor leads the area with 27 3-pointers in eight games.
0 — Only three area teams have a zero in the loss column throughout the entire state in girls’ basketball, and two of them are from the area. Defending Class AAA champion Greenbrier East is 8-0, as is Westside, the defending Class AA champion.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.