WILLIAMSTOWN - As often as not, basketball coaches whose teams qualify for the state high school tournament don't know a great deal about the opposing team. After all, they hail from different parts of the state and often have no common opponents.
But Williamstown High School girls basketball coach Fred Sauro is quite familiar with Tucker County, who his Yellowjackets will meet in an opening-round Class A game at 9 p.m. today.
You see, the Yellowjackets and Mountain Lions also met in last year's opening round. To say that game was a classic wouldn't be giving it its just due. Williamstown prevailed 84-82, thanks to a 47-point effort by Liz Flowers. It was one of the most dominating individual performances in tournament history, yet the Yellowjackets needed every points to move to the semifinals.
Flowers has graduated to college basketball (she made the West Virginia Conference all-freshmen team playing for West Liberty), but Williamstown has found its way back to the state tournament. The Yellowjackets barely stayed above .500 for the regular season, going 11-9, but beat a pair of 15-win teams in Gilmer County (82-78) and Parkersburg Catholic (63-53) to open tournament play, then destroyed Charleston Catholic (63-38) in a regional contest.
Veteran coach Fred Sauro, in his 28th year as Williamstown's head coach, has seven seniors on his roster, including the Yellow Jackets' three double-digit scorers.
Guard Kenzie Smith - who scored her 1,000th points against Tyler Consolidated on Jan. 28 -averages 19 points per game. She has canned 40 3-point field goals and has improved her defense. Smith has an athletic scholarship at West Virginia State, where she will play both basketball and volleyball.
She is joined in the backcourt by Brooke Cieslewski, who carries a 13.1 points per game. Sauro describes her as a lights out'' shooter and she has the statistics to back up his words, as she made 40.3 percent of her 3-point attempts, making 62 treys.
Sauro moved Cieslewski from point guard to the wing in December, taking her out of her comfort zone. Rather than grumble about the change, Cieslewski came to practice early, stayed late and the results are she led the Mid-Ohio Valley in 3-point field goals.
The point guard is Carley Ellison, the team's versatile player. She averages a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds per game.
The forwards are Kathleen Cornell and Sami Rea. Cornell averages 10.4 points per game and is the second leading rebounder at 6.5 a contest. She has made 27 treys and has made herself a strong shooter. Rea, who stands just 5-foot-5, is the team's third leading rebounder, appropriately averaging 5.5 per game to go with her 5.7 scoring average.
The other seniors -both have started at times - are Jessie Kerns and Lauren Amos. Kerns is the team's best defender while Amos is a post player who is nicknamed Dozer because of her driving style. Juniors Cami Mossor and Andrea Chidester are both state track champions who come off the bench and provide quality minutes.
Sauro raves about his team's athleticism, noting that nearly all of its members are members of the state championship Williamstown track and/or volleyball teams.
Private schools -including four-time defending state champion and this year's overwhelming favorite Huntington St. Joe - have won every Class A girls title since 1991 except for Williamstown's victory in 2003. Sauro would mind winning another state crown 10 years later.