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Class AA girls basketball: State tournament primer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Eight teams begin play Wednesday in the Class AA state tournament at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center. Both AA semifinals will be held during Friday’s first session, with the title game set for noon Saturday.

A look at each team in the field in order of seeding.

1 — North Marion (24-1)

The Huskies are the top dogs in Class AA ahead of state tournament play. NMHS is unbeaten outside of a one-point loss to Martinsburg on Jan. 20. The Huskies have only two seniors, though one — Taylor Buonamici — is among the elite players in the state. Buonamici’s aggressive play often pays off with trips to the free throw line, where she regularly cashes in. North Marion will face No. 8 Bridgeport in its quarterfinal matchup, with the Huskies having beaten the Indians, 92-45, in their regular season meeting. The Huskies bring a 13-game win streak to Charleston. They last won a state championship in 2018 — their first since finishing off a three-peat in Class AAA in 2011.

2 — Winfield (23-2)

If there’s a team in the field with a resume comparable to North Marion’s, it’s the Generals. Both of Winfield’s losses came against Class AAA opponents in Cabell Midland and South Charleston. The Generals have won eight straight since the setback to the Black Eagles, and they’ve allowed only 110 points in three playoff games. Guard ZZ Russell and forward Lauren Hudson are focal points on a team that gets production from plenty of players. The Generals claimed AA titles in 2004 and 2006 and last appeared in the final in 2007.

3 — Fairmont Senior (20-5)

The defending state champs had to earn their way back to Charleston with a win at Frankfort in a regional co-final. Fairmont Senior is 0-3 against North Marion and 20-2 against everybody else, though it was highly competitive in all three losses to the Huskies. Sophomore guard Marley Washenitz is an important piece of what the Polar Bears aspire to do on both ends of the court. Fairmont Senior has played on championship Saturday four of the last five seasons, having lost in 2015 and 2016 and won in 2017.

4 — Lincoln (18-6)

Having allowed 107 points in three postseason wins, defense has been the calling card for the Cougars. On offense, balance has been a theme throughout the season. The Cougars are led by junior wing Victoria Sturm at 15.5 points per game, while the team’s two seniors — Allison Rockwell and Brynne Williams — are also averaging double figures at 13.8 and 12.8, respectively. After early season losses to Saint Joseph Central and Buckhannon-Upshur, the Cougars’ four other setbacks all came to teams in the AA state tournament — two vs. North Marion and one each to Winfield and Fairmont Senior. Although Lincoln is no stranger to the state tournament, the Cougars have never won it all and last appeared in a final in 2009.

5 — Nitro (19-7)

The Wildcats overcame a 13-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to beat Lincoln County and reach states. Junior guard Baylee Goins is among the more prolific scorers in the state and Nitro will likely need Goins near at her best to advance. Three of Nitro’s losses this season are to Winfield, including its two most recent setbacks. A Jan. 27 loss to Wayne is the Wildcats’ last defeat to a team besides the Generals. Nitro has appeared in one previous title game back in 2001 when it lost the AAA final to Capital.

6 — PikeView (17-8)

Winners of seven straight, the Panthers will look to use their size to their advantage against a quick and defensive-minded Fairmont Senior squad. In seniors Shiloh Bailey and Laken McKinney, PikeView has two players slightly taller than 6-feet who make it tough on the opposition’s post players. Six of PikeView’s eight losses were against Class AAA teams, though one of its two setbacks against a Class AA school came on Dec. 21 to Fairmont Senior, 70-56. The Panthers have never played in a final.

7 — Westside (18-7)

The Renegades were just 9-6 following a two-point loss to PikeView on Jan. 27. They’ve won nine of 10 since and much of the success can be attributed to defense. Westside has yet to allow more than 44 points in the postseason and has surrendered 105 points in three playoff games. The Renegades are senior-laden and have eight players who will wrap up their high school careers this week in Charleston. A two-point win over defending runner-up Wyoming East allowed Westside to win the sectional championship, before it secured its spot in the state tournament with a 54-40 win over Bluefield. Westside won state titles in 2012 and 2014 and finished runner-up in 2013.

8 — Bridgeport (13-12)

The Indians have spent nearly the entire season around the .500 mark. They climbed over it by winning 46-39 at Braxton County in last Thursday’s Region II co-final, a team the Tribe lost two of three to in the regular season. Like North Marion, Bridgeport has a pair of seniors on its roster. Freshman guard Gabby Reep has enjoyed a stellar debut season at the high school level. The Indians won their lone title in 2013.

 

CLASS AA QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE

Wednesday, March 11

Game 1 – No. 3 Fairmont Senior vs. No. 6 PikeView, 9:30 a.m.

Game 2 – No. 2 Winfield vs. No. 7 Westside, 1:00 p.m.

Game 3 – No. 1 North Marion vs. No. 8 Bridgeport, 5:30 p.m.

Game 4 – No. 4 Lincoln vs. No. 5 Nitro, 9:00 p.m.

Friday, March 13

Game 5 – Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 9:30 a.m.

Game 6 – Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 1:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 14

Game 7 – Championship, Noon





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