Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Huntington’s Arick Nicks celebrates after Friday’s Class AAA semifinal upset of No. 1 Washington at the Charleston Civic Center. His team plays for the state title Saturday night.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Four months after narrowly losing their football state championship game, the kids at Huntington High haven’t forgotten.

Especially not the ones now pursuing a basketball title.

They’re hoping this weekend makes up for that painful near-miss in December, and the Highlanders will get their chance Saturday night after upsetting No. 1 seed Washington in the semifinals.

CLASS A: Wheeling Central def. Charleston Catholic 64-55 (2 OT)
CLASS AA: Bluefield def. Robert C. Byrd 64-39
CLASS AAA: Huntington (22-4) vs. Hurricane (21-6), 7:15 p.m.

“I’m taking the anger that I have from football and taking it to the basketball court,” said Huntington center Arick Nicks. “I took that football loss to heart.”

The 6-foot-5 Nicks said that 9-7 gridiron heartbreaker against Martinsburg left a brutal aftermath: “It was a bad vibe all the way home, a long ride home. I just remember seeing all the tears falling from the seniors.”

Fellow senior Nick Tubbs, has gone from all-state defensive back to the basketball team’s defensive stopper. He figures to draw another tough assignment when the fifth-seeded Highlanders face No. 7 Hurricane.

“Me and Aaric, we know how it feels to lose a state championship,” Tubbs said. “We don’t want to have that feeling again.”

Huntington edged Hurricane 50-48 on Feb. 14.

“They have very good shooters and we know that,” said Highlanders coach Ronald Hess.


Though Bluefield (24-2) is the defending state champion and has won 17 straight games, the Beavers will be an underdog against unbeaten Robert C. Byrd (24-0).

“At one point this season we were 7-2, but since then each week we’ve gotten better,” said Bluefield coach Buster Large, who added that his team’s primary goal was to return to the final. “We’re just so happy to have that 12 o’clock date (on Saturday).”

Byrd’s 78-73 semifinal win over Westside was only the third time all season an opponent hung within single-digits of the Eagles.

Top-seeded Wheeling Central (24-3) and No. 3 Charleston Catholic (21-6) square off in matchup of programs that have combined for 10 state banners since 2000.

“We’re very familiar with them,” said Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens, whose Maroon Knights have won 15 straight games, including a 64-52 decision over Charleston Catholic on Jan. 31. “It seems like every year we come down here we run into them somewhere along the line.”

The Irish are aiming to give coach Bill McClanahan a championship sendoff. He has been at the helm for nine trips to the finals, including titles in 2000, 2006, 2007 and 2012

“I’m sure they’re going to be pumped with it being Coach McClanahan’s last game, and I wish him the best, because he’s done a fantastic job down here with those guys. But we’re going to come out and try to spoil his party and win the championship.”

Wheeling Central four-peated from 2002-05 along with winning back-to-back crowns in 2008-09.

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  • tucker lamber

    And to me Will Fox was the best player on the floor in the AA class. Westside, Wyoming East and Bluefield where the best three team in the AA class all year long. They beat up on each other all year long. West side beat Bluefield Bluefield beat Wyoming East, Wyoming East beat Westside and Westside beat Wyoming East. Where is the best double A basketball in the state of WV? Now Question you can see it!!!!!

  • tucker lamber

    wheeling central should have never made it out of the first round. Referees help Central stay in the game. and A goal tending call that was not called should have gave them the L. Referees need to do better with the calls

  • Aaron S.

    First, congratulations to the 3 teams who won state championships, they were all well deserved for the play in the tournament this week. I've heard that in order to be the man, you have to beat the man and Huntington certainly did that. I doubt many will argue that the best team in the state of West Virginia is Washington High School but as is more often than not, the best teams don’t always win. That’s why they hold a tournament.

    Of the games I watched, Hurricane was by far the most impressive “team” at the tournament. Their coach had a plan and the players executed it about as flawlessly as any team can and despite being the underdog in 3 straight games, they nearly won a state championship. I was thoroughly impressed with how well they shut down opposing teams and forced them to adapt to their style of play. I did not see the entire Hedgesville game but in the South Charleston and Huntington games, they completely took away the drive by guards and forced long 3’s and ball movement. Huntington managed to hit a couple from beyond NBA range and I think that turned out to be the difference in the game.

    The guard, Martin-Dunn (I think) was impressive, especially for such a young player but his game still needs work. It looked as if he played the shooting guard last night. That works in high school but at his height, if he’s going to play at the next level, he will have to learn how to play the point. That and while i liked his energy, he needs to learn how to channel it and ignore opposing players. He could have easily been T’ed up on a couple of occasions for his response were it not for the composure of the referees, who I thought called a good game.

    In AA, I thought Bluefield did a great job of imposing their will on others but for the life of me, I could not figure out why Poca and RCB both tried playing straight up man defense on that team. Had either observed what Hurricane did, I think the results could have been different. The thing is, you have to commit to the zone all year long to run it effectively as it’s not something you can just throw in a day before a game and beat a team. On that note, I have never understood coaches who are so committed to one philosophy that they’re unwilling to change and adapt to their kids. It befuddles me but enough of that soap box rant.

    Bluefield certainly earned the title as they were the best team in AA. They remind me of the old Harts Creek teams in which they just out hustle you for as long as the game continues and wear you down, both mentally and physically. In all 3 games, as many turnovers were committed by the opposition out of frustration as there were due to the press. Credit to Coach Large thought, when you can get kids to buy into the type of commitment required to sustain that sort of effort for an entire game and then augment it with sound ball players, good things will happen as Bluefield has proved. Again. They were by far the most committed and best coached team in AA.

    I heard Hoppy say that Eades was going to Tusculum College, where he should be given a chance to compete given the 3-25 record of this years Pioneers. Eades is a quick guard and has a really nice ‘stop and pop’ shot but he will need to work on his mechanics if he’s going to be successful at the next level. Once he gets his arms up, he has a beautiful shot but you simply cannot start a shot as low as he does, even at the D-II level. He also will not be able to drive at will and score at the rim either so his jump will be more pivotal. I did not hear mention of where or if the Collier kid was going to college to play ball. He handles the ball really well and with his quickness, in an offense that relies on a true non-scoring point guard, he can be successful, particularly with the energy he brings to the game.

    The South Charleston kid was impressive but due to foul trouble, we did not see him enough. That was also the case with Luke Frampton from Poca. Both players need to learn when to concede points and when to pull up and shoot as both are both are vital to their team’s success. I don’t have the stat for SC game but I do know that Poca outscored Bluefield with Frampton on the floor by 6 but were outscored by 23 with him out of the game. That’s understandable given that he played less than a half and he was vital to handling their pressure and is even more reason for them to learn to play within themselves.

    I did not see RCB’s first game but in the last two, they just looked flat to me. Perhaps the 3 games in 4 days wore on them but if you’re going to win the tournament, that’s the route you have to take. It’s also another area in which the conditioning required to full court press comes into play. In the future, were I the coaches, I think I would schedule some back to back games later in the season to try and acclimate kids to that type of grind.

    The only Class A game I watched was the championship and other than I’m sad to see Coach McClanahan retire, I won’t say a lot about that class. At one time, there were over 70 class A schools in the state with 25 or more in the 64/77 south/state line triangle. While there are ~45 today, there are only 3 in the southern triangle today. As a former player in that area, I miss small school basketball. Parents can argue all they want but metropolitan private schools are not the same and do not fill that void.

    Overall, I would say the officiating was good. The down side is there were far too many calls made from officials out of position and there were more charges in the games I watched then I normally see in two seasons but overall, officiating was ok. And on that not, another high school basketball season is done. Win or lose, all teams are now playing baseball as of tomorrow.

  • Wenkev10

    I dont know about the private schools, but don't for a minute think that the public schools in WV don't recruit! I know of a couple of instances where I wound up setting next to a BB player in class who was a star at another school the year before. I asked them what they were doing at my school and the answer was always the same, "My dad got a job here." Funny how their dads could get a job in town when hardly anyone else could.

    • krowbait

      Shut the front door, man. Please.

  • They recruit

    So all of the commercials for private schools on tv and the radio talking about athletics and academics isn't recruiting? I say bump them up a class.

  • Mick

    They should draw a straight line just a little south of Charleston across the whole state and the southern part take a whole new name.I am from the southern part and we are completely ignored...

    • Kiddkornbred

      And we shall call this Southern part of the State. West Virginia. The north can split between Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    • T.

      We have always been ignored!

  • TLC

    Wow, sure is a lot of whining about private schools. Just play better. The local public schools won't let the private schools take their players. They tried to get a private school coach in trouble when his own child transferred between 8th and 9th grade to play for their parent. If anyone knows of a school recruiting, they should report them to the WVSSAC.

  • Lynn Frederick

    If you would bump the private school kids to AA , AAA, or their own class where they belong the actual A schools could play for titles. 1000 people towns competing against schools that recruit is a joke!

    • Luke

      I recently graduated from one of these private schools. I played basketball for one of these schools. I can assure you that our school never recruited anyone. We grew up with the kids we played with. Last year a public school won the state title in single A. The reason we don't move up to double or triple A would be that our school is too small. We do not have the same talent as bigger schools. Please stop with the ignorant stereotypes.

      • wvu999

        But its okay to have AAA kids playing A games. Too bad they didn't teach logic at your private metro school

        • Luke

          Many if these kids choose private schools because of the education. School comes first, not basketball. Kid should not have to be forced to certain schools because you don't think they are capable of playing at a AAA school. More than likely, they won't be playing in the NBA. Their education is what will pay the bills.

        • Luke

          Is there a talent requirement in these classes? So all single A schools must be untalented? Thought the classes were separated by size, not talent. Then why should kids in single A even go to practice if they are not allowed to be good?

          • Luke

            God forbid these kids try to be good players. That's unacceptable. They moved Tug Valley (AA) down last year, and they won the championship. How does a private school with AAA kids lose to a AA team?

  • wvu999

    Get the AAA kids out of A

    • WhgFeeling

      Just curious what makes a kid AAA vs just simply an A? Would this be something we can see as we pass them on the street? Is is contagious?

      • wvu999

        A AAA kid is one that lives in a metro area that has access to rec centers, multiple school choices , kids live mins away from each other, and you select your team instead of hoping you have enough to play.

        I'm guessing you've never lived in a single A county. I wouldn't expect you to understand.

        • Memo

          What about all the "rural" schools in the AA tournament:
          Region I -- Fairmont East and Fairmont Senior
          Region II -- RCB and Bridgeport
          Region III -- Bluefield and Westside
          Region IV -- Poca and Chapmanville
          Only Westside could be considered "rural" since these other schools are located in or near larger towns where they have access to rec centers and other schools. However, Westside and Wyoming East are both basketball powerhouses. The rural / county schools generally aren't represented in Charleston. Same for AAA--Hampshire, Preston, Lewis, Buckhannon-Upshur, Lincoln, etc. The issue isn't as much private / public as it is urban / rural.
          Consolidations have gobbled up most of the "A" schools in southern WV.

          • Kiddkornbred

            Nail on the head. Consolidation hurt the small school tournament a lot. The public private school ratio wasn't as lopsided in the 90's.

  • hh

    Does anyone really care about the private school championship game?

    • No

      No, only the parents, a very small alumni, and classmates of the particular teams, that's why Private A is much less interesting than AA or AAA, where you have whole cities or counties pulling for a team.

  • DR

    NO Eastern panhandle teams in the championship!!!!! Washington who lol!!!!! Let the crying start how they where cheated and blah blah blah LOVE IT

    • Wvu85

      Your right no eastern teams in the AAA championship because you cheat us not h ville game but Washington game everyone knows the refs wanted Huntington to win but they also had a off night shooting as well but Washington is better than Huntington