By Cam Huffman
The calendar has quickly flown through December and January is ticking away at a rapid pace. That means the high school basketball season in West Virginia is about at the halfway point. Some thrilling games have already been played, but they’ll only get more interesting as the end of February approaches.
Here’s a look at some of the games to watch this week.
Shady Spring at Liberty
The Raiders have been on quite a roll recently, winning three straight, including knocking off Oak Hill and Nicholas County over the course of the last five days. But Liberty’s biggest loss of the season came on Jan. 5 when it traveled to Shady Spring and was blown out 72-47.
Liberty, and West Virginia verbal commitment Levi Cook, will be looking for revenge against the Tigers, who have won six straight and feature their own star player in Chase Connor, a senior who can light up the scoreboard.
Nicholas County at Poca
The Grizzlies were having a great season until they fell to Liberty at home on Friday. They can get right back on top in Class AA this week, though, if they can find a way to win on the road at Poca against one of Class AA’s top-ranked teams.
Nitro at Woodrow Wilson
The Flying Eagles broke a three-game losing streak with a win at Cabell Midland on Saturday. Now they’ll be trying to break a three-game skid inside the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, as well as regain some confidence, when they welcome Nitro to town.
Wyoming East at Scott
The Warriors weren’t able to hold up against a Bluefield team that may be the best in Class AA, but they’ll get another chance to make a statement, going on the road against a strong Scott team. It’s an opportunity to start another winning streak after their run of six straight was stopped by the Beavers.
Liberty at Webster County
Beating Shady Spring on Tuesday would be huge for the Raiders’ confidence, but that game, against a Class AAA squad, doesn’t matter nearly as much as Thursday’s against Class AA power Webster County. If Liberty wants to gain respect in the Class AA rankings, winning this game would be a great way to do just that.
Nicholas County at Scott
Much like Tuesday’s game against Poca, this is a chance for Nicholas County to earn some major respect within Class AA against one of the better teams it will face all year.
How good is Princeton? It’s a question high school basketball fans have been asking quite often after the Tigers’ 9-2 start. They’ll get a chance to provide the answer when they take on traditional Class AAA power George Washington in front of what should be a packed house.
Valley at Buffalo
All Valley has done is win, starting the season with a 5-0 record, but the Greyhounds are still being questioned by some who aren’t sold on their early schedule, even though they’re coming off a win over a strong Greenbrier West club. They’ll get a chance to silence the critics if they can win on the road against Buffalo, another ranked Class A squad.
at Liberty (Harrison)
This may not be a great one as far as the teams’ records and history, but how can basketball fans not be interested in seeing two schools battle to determine which is the best Liberty?
at Pocahontas County
Tygarts Valley is good, but not as good as the Tucker County team that Pocahontas County beat earlier this month. Still, today’s game provides another chance for Pocahontas County to turn some heads and continue to gain respect within Class A.
Two of the top teams in Class AA — the defending state champs, Westside, and the most successful girls basketball program in the state’s history, Summers County — meet in what should be a classic battle. After a down year, at least by their standards, a year ago, the Bobcats are 9-1 this year. But a win today would officially send the message that they’re back.
The undefeated Spartans will put their perfect record on the line a long way from home against a Martinsburg team that always has some athletes.
One day after taking on Martinsburg, the defending Class AAA champion Spartans will face another tough task at Hedgesville.
The Register-Herald power rankings will be released on each Monday for the remainder of the high school basketball season. The rankings are designed to rank area boys and girls teams, based on the strength within their class. Ranking Class A Greater Beckley above Class AAA Shady Spring, for example, doesn’t mean that we believe Greater Beckley is a better team and would beat Shady Spring in a head-to-head battle. It simply means that we believe Greater Beckley is a stronger force within Class A than Shady Spring is within Class AAA.
Five voters — assistant sports editor Gary Fauber, sports editor Cam Huffman, sports writer J. Daniel Rollins, sports writer Dan Stillwell and sports clerk Rusty Udy — will rank their top 10 boys teams and top 10 girls teams each week. Teams will receive 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second-place vote and on down to one for a 10th-place vote. The points will be tallied and the teams ranked in order.
Here are this week’s power rankings, with total votes in parentheses.
1. Bluefield (48) — The Beavers (7-1) are coming off big wins over Wyoming East and Wheeling Park and are considered to be one of the top Class AA teams in the state.
2. Greenbrier East (46) — The Spartans (11-0) cut it close this week, beating Logan 60-53 and Alleghany (Va.) 66-60 in double overtime. But they’re still finding ways to win and have plenty of talent in the lineup.
3. Princeton (32) — The Tigers had a couple of big wins this week, beating Huntington and Spring Valley, with a loss to a strong Hurricane club in the middle.
4. Wyoming East (28) — The Warriors (7-2) had a big victory over Summers County to begin the week, but a 75-56 loss to Bluefield indicated they still have some work to do to get to the top of Class AA.
5. Woodrow Wilson (19) — The Flying Eagles (5-4) lost to South Charleston and Winfield to begin the week, extending their losing streak to three games, but they trounced Cabell Midland 66-34 and history tells our voters they’ll be in the mix in the postseason.
6. Greater Beckley (15) — The Crusaders (4-1) suffered their first loss this week, falling to Tug Valley on the road, but they were competitive against one of Class A’s top teams.
7. Valley (14) — The Greyhounds (5-0) continued to pick up steam this week, beating Meadow Bridge and Greenbrier West to stay perfect and earn some additional respect.
T8. Liberty (13) — Coming off a big win over Nicholas County, the Raiders (7-2) are playing some good basketball, with Cook leading the way.
T8. Summers County (13) — The Bobcats (6-4) fell a little short against Nicholas County and Wyoming East this week, losing by a combined 10 points to the Class AA powers, but they’re playing good basketball with the area’s top scorer, TaRon Ayers, leading the way.
10. Nicholas County (12) — The Grizzlies (6-3) fell short against Liberty, but they had won five straight before that, including wins over Summers County and Richwood.
Others receiving votes: Greenbrier West (10), Shady Spring (8), Westside (7).
1. Westside (49) — The state’s top-ranked Class AA team, the Renegades (10-0) beat Shady Spring and Wyoming East in lopsided fashion this week. The chances of a state championship repeat look strong.
2. Greenbrier East (46) — Ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, the Spartans (9-0) are undefeated and looking to defend their state championship, despite losing two of the top scorers from last year’s club.
3. Princeton (40) — The Tigers (8-2) lost to Spring Valley by a single point to end the week, but that didn’t erase their wins over Oak Hill and Hurricane earlier.
4. Summers County (34) — One of the state’s most historically dominant teams, the Bobcats (9-1) look strong again after wins over James Monroe and Shady Spring this week.
5. Valley (29) — The Greyhounds (8-1) suffered their first loss of the year against Herbert Hoover, but they beat Montcalm and Sherman and look to be contenders.
6. Nicholas County (22) — The Grizzlies (10-1) nearly ended Greenbrier East’s championship run last season, and now playing in Class AA, they have a strong club again. They’re coming off wins over RIchwood and James Monroe.
7. Fayetteville (14) — The Pirates (7-2) beat Richwood and Meadow Bridge to end a two-game losing streak and appear to have fixed their problems.
8. James Monroe (11) — The Mavericks (7-4) fell short against Nicholas County and Summers County this week, but a lot of teams have done that. Prior to those losses, James Monroe had won seven straight.
T9. Meadow Bridge (9) — The Wildcats (6-3) were unable to knock off rival Fayetteville, but they responded with a win over Montcalm and have proven to be a strong defensive club.
T9. PikeView (9) — The Panthers (5-5) have been up and down all year, but Lyndsey Hatfield is a talented player, who gives them a chance to win every time out.
10. Pocahontas County (6) — The Warriors (9-4) lost to Pendleton County but beat Charleston Catholic this week. Their record may not look incredible on the surface, but they already have some big wins in the bag.
Others receiving votes: Bluefield 3, Woodrow Wilson 2.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
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