CHARLESTON, W.Va. – If you look at its record, the Herbert Hoover High School boys basketball team does not seem like anything more than an underdog.
Finishing its season 13-13, the Huskies will play in the school’s first high school boys basketball state tournament following its double-overtime win Wednesday over Robert C. Byrd High School 55-51.
But beyond the numbers, the team seems to be carrying the entire weight of its school on its shoulders.
The Herbert Hoover High School building in Clendenin was destroyed in the June 2016 flood. Classes were moved to Elkview Middle School during the afternoon, as Elkview Middle students use classrooms in the morning.
The team has been holding morning practices at the Charleston YMCA, and played its home games at the middle school gym. If that was not enough, players not only lost the gym, but also their equipment.
And yet, the team has found itself with an opportunity to become one of the top high school teams in West Virginia.
Hoover coach Josh Daniel said his team never used the flood as an excuse for poor performance.
“I never talked about it with our kids,” he said. “Our kids never talked about it. You just got to do what you got to do.”
The Class AA Region 2 co-final was moved to George Washington High School in Charleston because of Secondary School Activities Commission rules regarding seating; a gym used in the regional finals must seat 900 people.
Inside that gym, there was not any room to sit, as Hoover students, parents, friends and alumni packed most the bleachers, donning the school colors, red and blue.
Sophomore Zach Spencer said the team seems to perform better when more students are involved.
“If there’s not a lot of people in the student section, we don’t do as well as we do,” Spencer said.
The Huskies ended the first half leading 24-15, but the Eagles (13-12) made a comeback, with Brice Roseborough scoring a 30-foot 3-point shot at the end of regulation to tie the game 44-44.
“The kid made a heck of a shot,” Daniel said. “But the game wasn’t over.”
The first overtime ended 48-48. Foul shots during the second overtime helped push Hoover into the lead, securing the win.
— Alex Thomas (@AlexHouseThomas) March 9, 2017
As fans rushed the court, players hugged each other, fans and coaches with tears streaming down their faces. In spite of everything over past eight months, the team earned a spot in the state tournament.
Daniel called the win “destiny,” adding his goal for the season was to just make it to the tournament.
“Now, I guess we got to set some new goals,” he said. “Let’s go win it.”
Daniel said this team is the hardest playing he has coached during his four years at Hoover.
“They might not be the strongest, they might not be the biggest,” he said. “I can count on them playing hard every single night.”
Spencer said there was only way to describe how he felt about his peers.
“Proud of them,” Spencer said. “Proud to call them our basketball team.”
No. 8 seed Hoover’s first game in the tournament is March 16 against No. 1 seed Fairmont Senior High School (22-3). The tournament will be at the Charleston Civic Center.