Parkersburg South looks to knock off Martinsburg

Photo by Jordan Holland Parkersburg South’s Jake Dennis (5) guards Warren’s Seth Dennis during a high school basketball game earlier this season at Rod Oldham Athletic Center. South plays Martinsburg at 7:15 p.m. today in the Class AAA state quarterfinals in Charleston.

PARKERSBURG — It wasn’t easy for Parkersburg South during this past regular season, but the Patriots will be returning to the Charleston Civic Center at 7:15 p.m. for a school-record seventh consecutive trip to play in the triple-A state tournament.

Fighting and crawling throughout the year with an 8-16 record, the Patriots, who play Martinsburg in today’s quarterfinals, came out on top with a 53-50 win over Spring Valley in regionals.

“It has been like that the entire season. We have, I think, lost nine games by four points or less,” Patriot head coach Mike Fallon said. “We are excited. This is the seventh year in the row and I’m happy for these kids. At any point, they could’ve given up. They won when they had to.”

The eighth-seeded Patriots have the honor of playing the first seed and one of the two undefeated teams standing in the Mountain State, the Martinsburg Bulldogs (24-0).

Competing with four out of the seven teams in the triple-A bracket, Blue Ridge High, who just recently won the Division II championship in Virginia earlier this month, and Ohio’s Dublin Coffman, shows that the Patriots can play with the undefeated Bulldogs, despite their record.

“We got an opportunity to see the best of the best. Even though our record might not indicate it, our kids feel good where they are at,” Fallon said.

Doing the majority of his damage around the paint, Malaki Sylvia leads the Patriots in both scoring (19) and rebounds (7.7). The Glenville State-bound guard Seth Fallon chips in 13.3 points per game, pulls down 5.6 boards and leads the Mid-Ohio Valley with 6.7 assists per game. Brayden Mooney can score both from inside and out, averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Guard Jake Dennis can score in a hurry, scoring eight points in the first quarter during the Spring Valley. He averages 9.6 points.

Guards Dylan Day, Nathan Currey and center Alex Woolard are the first ones off the bench.

Coach Fallon expects the Bulldogs to come out playing lockdown defense from the opening tip. Coming into the game they averaging 12.96 steals a game.

But after playing fast, athletic teams in the regular season, Fallon is sure of his Patriots being able to handle the Bulldogs’ pressure.

“We have to handle their pressure when it hits. I don’t think the speed is going to bother us. It’s going to be taking care of the ball,” Fallon said.

Falling to George Washington in the state championship game last year as the fourth seed was the last loss for the Bulldogs. Being undefeated going into state tournament is a nice surprise for longtime Bulldog head coach Dave Rogers.

“It is a good feeling. We never thought we would be in this position or how the season played out,” Rogers said. “Our kids have done a great job, but now you got to come down to Charleston and do a great job also.”

The Bulldogs’ closest game of the year was an out of state tournament in South Carolina. Participating in the Hilton Head Seahawk Classic, Martinsburg beat The Calhoun School from Alabama 58-54.

The closest in-state game were two seven-point wins, coming against the triple-A fourth seed Morgantown and Hedgesville.

Playing tough teams no matter the location will have the Bulldogs ready to play when it matters the most.

“We have our own tournament at our place and this year we went back to South Carolina for a three-day tournament,” Rogers said. “It helps them get ready for the tournament. How it feels to play three good teams, three days in a row. I think it helps when we play good teams.”

Winning three titles during his time, this year’s team has to be one most balanced team during Rogers’ tenure.

Scoring 70.3 points per game, while holding teams to barely 42, and a margin of victory average is 25.8.

The most points they had given up all year was 57 points by Spring Mills, in a 19-point win during sectionals.

“We constantly preach rebounding, defense and the offense will take care of itself. This year for whatever reason these guys have bought in,” Rogers said. “Our team chemistry is really good, they are understanding the game good and they have really been a fun group to coach.”

The starters for the Bulldogs will be point guard Teddy Marshall, guards Grant Harman and Qualeke Bush and down in the paint will be Telryn Villa and Joe Bokay.

After watching tape, Rogers expects a good game from the Patriots despite the record.

“I like them. It’s a good program. Mike does a nice job with them. If they get hot from 3, they are dangerous,” Rogers said.

The keys to success according to Rogers for the Bulldogs will be playing good team defense and not giving the Patriots open shots.

“They are a good solid basketball team,” he said. “We know how good they are and they will be ready to play.”