PARKERSBURG - The road to defending the Class AAA state championship won last year by the Parkersburg South girls of head basketball coach Scott Stephens begins at 7 p.m. today when Brooke invades the Rod Oldham Athletic Center.
That's when the Class AAA, Region I, Section 1 tournament gets underway. At the same time, third-seeded Parkersburg (8-14) travels to face host and No. 2 seed Wheeling Park with the winners of the two games meeting at the higher seed come 7 p.m. Friday.
"They've won more games this year than they have for a while," Stephens said of the fourth-seeded Bruins. "They've won eight games which is pretty good for them."
What's not good for the 20-0 top-seeded Patriots is sophomore post Carlie Wilson is expected to miss the game due to an ankle injury.
"She did it at practice on Saturday," Stephens noted. "She hasn't done anything (at practice this week) and we'll probably start Laken Valentine in her spot and see how she does. It makes us smaller and takes away 11 rebounds."
Despite that fact, the Bruins managed just nine points through the first three quarters during a 73-21 setback to PSHS earlier this season.
The Patriots, who had individual single-game school records broken this year by Keya Bartlett (steals) and Taryn McCutcheon (assists), enter the postseason as the only Parkersburg South team, boys or girls, to ever go undefeated in the regular season.
"This team is starting to jell together real well," Stephens added. "I wish they fed off each other more than they do. I haven't got the max out of them yet.
"They are playing hard and playing together and looking out for each other. I wish I could get them a little more excited. It's been a fun year and they are good kids."
PHS head coach Kenny DeMoss' squad, which finished fourth in the Mountain State Athletic Conference for the second straight campaign, has lost twice to WPHS. The first meeting was a narrow 58-51 road setback, but the Big Reds lost 61-40 at home.
"I really feel we are prepared," DeMoss said. "We go as our scoring goes. If we don't score the ball we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and are not as successful."
Despite being six games below the .500 mark, DeMoss said he was proud to have played one of the toughest schedules in the state and hopes that pays dividends tonight.
"I'd rather play a great schedule and lose games then play a cookie schedule and win because that way I know we've faced the best," said DeMoss, who added of the biggest keys to victory being "we got to rebound the ball. We have to guard the 3 and we have to take care of the ball for sure. If we can do those three things we'll be OK."
Ravenswood (16-4) is riding an eight-game winning streak, but girls head coach Cara Williams is taking nothing for granted when the Class AA, Region I, Section 2 semifinal tips at 7 p.m. today against visiting Ritchie County, which is 7-14 but has won three straight..
"We stressed that today (Tuesday). You can never underestimate your opponent, especially one you struggled really with earlier in the season," said Williams, whose team nipped the Rebels 55-46 in overtime at Ellenboro and then won the return trip in Jackson County, 48-32.
"We played Roane a week or so ago at their place and didn't play well and Ritchie just went in there (Monday) and beat them by 19 (57-38)."
Rebel head coach Dave McCullough said his team must contain Hailey Miller and Taylor Treadway.
"They are two nice players and if you can contain both of them or one of those two you might be able to have a chance," he admitted.
"You've got to handle the pressure in man-to-man and when you get the shots, you've got to finish and make them."
The other half of the Ravenswood/Ritchie County sectional is being played at 7 p.m. today with No. 3 Braxton County at No. 2 Webster County.