ALBRIGHT: Big Red girls’ top my AP preseason Class AAA poll

One of the best sports times of the year is right around the corner!

Basketball begins within the borders of the Mountain State in the final week of November.

The start of the hardwood sport brings my attention to girls’ basketball as I vote on the all-state committee. A duty taken seriously as my fellow writers and I attempt insertion of the best players on the three teams deep in the bowels of the Civic Center in early March. I spend a lot of late nights reading stories from around the state to make sure my all-state ballot reads complete as possible before the beginning of the state tournament.

A lot of this knowledge went unused outside of my candidate selection process until last year. Colleague Steve Hemmelgarn retired from voting in the West Virginia Associated Press poll.

John Raby, the organizer of the rankings, inquired on my interest soon afterward. There wasn’t much to it; do your research and vote. Challenge accepted as an hour or so of each Sunday was devoted to research before my ballot was cast. A duty returning to the old to-do list again this season.

The poll releases Nov. 26 for the girls. Here is my first Top 10 of the season (Yes, the state champion Big Reds lead off my ballot):

1. Parkersburg High – Has anyone solved the Big Reds’ defense yet? Nope. All right. We are moving on.

2. Morgantown – Mohigans’ head coach Jason White’s words about his team’s ability on the defensive end of the floor were enough for me to insert them at No. 2 – “I love the team chemistry, work ethic, and attention to detail especially on the defensive side of the floor,” said White during an interview Sunday. “This has the chance to be the best defensive team I have had here in the past five years.”

3. Parkersburg South – There are no egos on the Patriots, just a collective working toward one common goal – A return to Charleston. Scoring can come from anywhere on any night with the Patriots. Ed Davis also has a stifling defense befuddling many an opponent.

4. Wheeling Park – If the top four teams in my rankings share something in common it is defense. Ryan Young’s stifling press and half-court pressure nearly advanced the Patriots to the state final against PHS. Guard Kylie McKinnen’s presence won’t be easy to replace but Emily Pavlic showed she is a stopper on the defensive end as well.

Their half-court defense presents just as many problems. Bella Abernathy (5-foot-10) provides a long, lanky post presence who made the all-state third team as a freshman. South and PHS fans think Makenna Winans. Class A fans think Williamstown’s Mara Rinehart.

5. George Washington – Prior to this spot the poll was a piece of cake, two 2017-18 state qualifiers battled it out inside my head for the fifth spot in Woodrow Wilson and George Washington. Brian Nabors’ Flying Eagles are ready for lift off in the Mountain State Athletic Conference with players like point guard Liz Cadle and big Laken Ball, yet two teams they are looking up at on this list also reside inside the conference. The Big Reds are the class of AAA and the MSAC with GW not far behind though. Jamie LeMasters’ group returns four of five starters and the sixth man. This experience netted the Patriots my number five spot.

Rounding out the final five are: 6. Woodrow Wilson, 7. South Charleston, 8. Martinsburg, 9. Greenbrier East, 10. Buckhannon-Upshur.

Stay tuned in the coming days for my inaugural Class A pole.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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