The West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament has become a staple for rural Class A schools.
For Meadow Bridge and Greenbrier West, playing in the tournament's championship games has also become a staple.
The Wildcats have played in the championship at least seven times, winning four, while West won its division in 2019.
"I think the kids enjoy going to places and seeing teams they wouldn't normally see," Meadow Bridge head coach Mark Gladwell said. "They do a great job with it, making it feel like a tournament atmosphere even though it's spread out through the season. If you win they give you a trophy and banners to hang — it's really nice. It matches us up with teams around the state that are pretty similar to us in size, so we really enjoy it.
"You can tell it also means something to the kids. My oldest son was on some of the teams that won them and my youngest sees his banners on the wall and has made it his goal to hang more than his brother did, so it means something to them."
The tournament is one that's inclusive to only Class A schools, and strives to invite those located in rural areas. Throughout the season, various teams play each other to advance in the season-long tournament which culminates in two championship games.
The event is broken down into two divisions, with the larger Class A schools playing in one and the smaller playing in the other.
West will play in the Division I title game against either South Harrison or Tolsia, while Meadow Bridge will play River View in the Division II title game right before that.
After losing out on the chance to defend their title last season, the Cavs have their eyes set on bringing the trophy back to Charmco.
"We were happy to win it when we did," West head coach Jared Robertson said. "We talked about it before we played Clay-Batelle in our first HIT game this season, but this was one of our goals this season. We wanted to play for the championship and win it. Last season we were seeded high, but we ended up losing to St. Marys and played in the third place game. This year it's been a little different as a tournament because the four classes moved some of the teams that usually compete in it up to AA, but it's still been great. It gives a real tournament atmosphere and gives the kids opportunities to play in places against teams they wouldn't normally play in."
As for the matchups for both teams, there isn't a lot of familiarity. Meadow Bridge hasn't played River View and West hasn't played either Tolsia or South Harrison.
"The scouting report says they're athletic and have a good guard," Gladwell said of River View. "We haven't had an opportunity to watch too much on them, but they can shoot with their guard and they play a tough 1-3-1 defense to disrupt you, so it will be a good test."
"I can't say I have a preference on who we play," Robertson said. "Tolsia has a good team and they're up and down like us, so it could be a track meet. They're good enough to make the state tournament, but it's tough because they play in a region with teams like Man and Tug Valley. I know South Harrison was young last year but I don't know too much about them. Either way it will be something new for us, but we're happy to be playing for the opportunity to win the tournament again."
Both teams will play Saturday at South Harrison, with Meadow Bridge playing at 5 p.m and West playing at 7.
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