Boys’ regional matchups see state berths on the line
Boys’ regional matchups see state berths on the line
WILLIAMSTOWN — It’s been more than a year since Williamstown went 24-1 and finished atop the final Associated Press Class A basketball poll and didn’t get a chance to play in the state quarterfinals versus Tug Valley.
Fast forward to tonight, the top-ranked Class AA Yellowjackets (13-1) of head coach Scott Sauro will be out to cut the nets down for a return trip to Charleston if they can knock off No. 4 St. Marys (12-4) for a third time this year.
“We feel like we have a tough draw with those guys,” admitted Sauro of the Region I co-final that gets underway at 7 p.m. “St. Marys is really good, and they have a returning first team all-stater (Grant Barnhart) and they have a bunch of shooters around him and they are well coached.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us. Fortunately for us, we get to play on our home floor, but that doesn’t really lessen the challenge. They are a good team and they’ve only lost four games for a reason.”
Sam Cremeans leads the way in scoring for WHS with an average of 21.7 points an outing and is followed by Xavier Caruthers (14.5 ppg).
“We felt all along at some point we’d have to play St. Marys, obviously we didn’t think it would be this early,” Sauro added. “They are going to be really ready and fired up. It’s a challenge we’re excited for, and we’re excited to play them.
“We’re in as good as shape physically as we’ve been the last few weeks. We’ve had some bumps and bruises, but the guys are healed up and ready to play.”
The Blue Devils were upset by Ritchie County on their home court during the sectional final.
While WHS captured the Little Kanawha Conference crown for a second straight season, the Blue Devils bested Webster County for third place in the conference.
Barnhart enters the fray with a 23.2 scoring average and has posted five double-doubles. He’s grabbing 6.4 boards a game and leads SMHS with 43 made 3s. Luke Webb is averaging 8 points a game and Brandon Lawhon has made 22 treys.
“The way you have to look at it is it’s another opportunity to play,” said Blue Devil boss Mark Barnhart, who noted 6-foot-6 Luke Powell is expected to draw his first varsity start.
“You got the extra days to practice and work on stuff and get better at basketball. It’s still another week of organized practice.”
The other Region I co-final will take place in Ellenboro where host Ritchie County, which finished 11th in the final AP poll and sports a 10-6 record, will take on the 8-11 Tigers of Wirt County, which last reached Charleston back in 2008.
Head coach Rick Haught’s Rebels, who are led in scoring by Graden McKinney (19.3 ppg), Ethan Haught (14.8 ppg) and Blaine Bowie (6.9 ppg), defeated the orange and black in their only matchup, 66-42, back on March 16 in Elizabeth.
“We started out 0-3 and played good teams. It was kind of rough and to our kids’ credit they kept working and this sport, if you can get a group of kids who get along well together and will play together you got a chance and as the season has progressed that’s been this group,” said coach Haught.
“I think you are starting to see the results in that. Here toward the end, we’ve played pretty well over the last month. I’ve been really impressed with our defense. I don’t believe Wirt is the same team that they were when we played them back in March. They are a solid, improving team and we’re not taking them lightly.”
The Tigers are led by senior Nathan Murray and his 20 points per game. Freshmen Connor Hoover and Zavion Fasogbon are putting up six points an outing.
“We’re in a position where they are the favorite, they are at home and they got the experience as far as just experienced guys who have played,” noted Wirt County head man Chase Mills.
“We are going into it with the pressure is on them type of deal. We know they’ve never been to Charleston. Everybody at this point in time wants to get there bad. We’re going in there more with a nothing to lose type of mentality, for sure.”
Roane County (8-12) and head coach Matt Brohard, who lost to No. 2 Charleston Catholic last week, gets the tall task of upsetting No. 3 Poca (10-4) in order to reach the big dance.
Raider seniors Brayden Miller (20 ppg) and Blake Murray (10+ ppg) lead the way in point-production.
“We were overmatched significantly against Charleston Catholic, that was pretty obvious,” Brohard admitted. “It’s a bad taste in our mouths, obviously. We just want to go down there, we’ve got a game plan together, go execute and go control what we can control and leave it all out there and at the end of it what it is, is what it is.
“I think we have a good game plan of what we want to try and do. I think (Isaac) McKneely is going to get his as he always does. If we go out and give our best effort and execute well, that’s all we can ask.”
Two other LKC programs also have a chance to reach the Class AA state tournament in Region II.
No. 6 Braxton County, which finished fifth in the LKC, will carry a 10-5 mark into tonight’s game at 5-11 Moorefield. The Yellow Jackets started the year 1-11 but are riding a four-game win streak after upsetting Frankfort, 58-44, in the sectional.
No. 5 Clay County, which was the LKC runner-up, defeated Braxton County 52-41 in the sectional final. It was the third time the Panthers defeated the Eagles and now Clay will play host to 4-10 Frankfort.
Contact Jay Bennett at email@example.com