In sports it’s said that in order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.
That seemed to be the mindset of Wyoming East Athletic Director Kevin Grogg when he sat down to construct the 2010-11 boys basketball schedule.
Warrior Head Coach Rory Chapman concedes that, “It’s probably the strongest we’ve ever played.”
Wyoming East’s schedule is a gauntlet which includes Class AAA powers Woodrow Wilson and South Charleston, defending Class AA champion Oak Hill (5-2), county rival Westside, Bluefield (4-1), Scott (9-2), Summers County (5-1), Shady Spring (7-0) and Class A power Charleston Catholic.
Why would a team schedule such a “murderer’s row” that includes the best competition from Class A, AA and AAA?
"It seemed to give us confidence, and it’s a test for your legs and your mental toughness," says Chapman. "Last year we lost to Oak Hill. Then, the next night we went to (AAA) Greenbrier East and won."
But don’t feel sorry for the Warriors yet.
The Class AA squad from New Richmond, WV is returning plenty of talent from a team that made its fourth consecutive state championship appearance a year ago. When you count their victory over Poca in the 2002 state championship, the Warriors have been to a total of five state championship games in the last nine seasons, winning three (2002,07,08).
"We’re a couple of steps ahead of where we were last year," Chapman said. "With four starters back, putting in an offense is easier."
Among the four returning starters is all-state point guard Chase Morgan, who averaged 21 points per game last season.
"He has quickness and the ability to create his own shots," Chapman stated. "He can see the floor and find the open man."
Morgan and senior Alex Webb have been responsible for the bulk of the Warrior offense this season.
Webb, a 6-foot-5 senior, has helped the Warriors jump out to a 7-0 record this season by using his versatility; forcing bigger opponents to guard him beyond the arc while taking smaller opponents off the dribble with his size and quickness.
"He can also crash the boards and get some tip dunks," Chapman added when talking about Webb, a third team all-state selection last year. "He’s really worked on his game."
As for the rest of the games on Wyoming East’s schedule this season, the Warriors should be most familiar with the Oak Hill Red Devils.
Last year Wyoming East faced Oak Hill five times, owning the series 3-2. Unfortunately for Rory Chapman and the rest of the Warriors, Oak Hill got the last laugh by beating Wyoming East in the state championship game 55-45.
"Last year (losing the final to Oak Hill) left a bad taste in our mouths," Chapman says. "We’re not playing to be No. 2."
For now Wyoming East sits atop the AA poll, but will the rugged schedule take its toll on them down the stretch? Or will the stiff competition prime the Warriors for a post-season run toward their fifth-straight state finals appearance?
If experience plays a factor in their success, you can count on seeing Wyoming East in Charleston come March.