MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On that day that sports stopped around West Virginia, North Marion and Shady Spring were set to hit the road in Class AA regional matchups. A win would send them to the state tournament.
However, the pandemic shut down all competitions and the basketball postseason remains unfinished.
“We were eating our team meal and were just getting ready to leave for Keyser and were told we can’t go,” said North Marion head coach Chris Freeman. “Seeing our guys very upset about that, it was tough. We had been knocking on the door in recent years. This was our fourth straight year in the regionals and the boys wanted to get the school to the state tournament.
“We had the second-best record in school history (19-5). I guess we can hang our hats on that.”
“It took a long time for me to get over it,” said Shady Spring head coach Ronnie Olson. “They accomplished a lot — being number one in the state for a long time and beating Woodrow Wilson for the first time.
“We want to put our program alongside the Fairmont Senior’s, the Robert C. Byrd’s, the Chapmanville’s. I think these kids cemented that.”
Both Olson and Freeman will get the chance to coach some of their seniors one last time. They will serve as coaches in the annual North-South boys basketball All-Star game June 12 at the South Charleston Community Center. They will be joined on the benches by Pendleton County’s Ryan Lambert (North) and South Charleston’s Josh Daniel (South).
North Marion graduate and Marietta College basketball commit Gunner Murphy will suit up for the North. He is scheduled to compete in both the North-South football and basketball contests that weekend.
“Gunner is a heck of an athlete and a heck of a player and he is just as much of a good kid as anything else,” Freeman said. “He is definitely going to be missed in our program. Being able to coach him one last time is going to be special. I know he has been working real hard. He has been lifting and he has probably put on ten to fifteen pounds.”
Freeman represented North Marion as a player in the 1998 North-South game.
Olson will coach his duo of Glenville State signees Luke LeRose and Tommy Williams.
“Just to tell them to hustle or go harder, take that shot and just coach them one more time is great. Both of them are looking forward to it,” Olson said.
As of now, the North-South boys basketball and football all-star contests are on as scheduled for June 12 and June 13, respectively. Football organizers could push their game back one week and if so, the basketball game will follow suit.
“If nothing else, at least they know they have been selected,” Freeman said. “They would still like to be able to get the kids a program.”
In last year’s game, the teams combined for 312 points, with the North prevailing 171-141.
“I don’t know if we can get 171 or not,” Freeman said.
“We get one practice Thursday evening for two hours. So I don’t know how much coaching is going to be going on. It is going to be more the players making plays. I think we have a good roster that is going to be able to compete and it should be a fun, exciting game.”
“I can’t tell you the last time a roster that was loaded like this,” Olson said. “I just think with the guys being pent up inside, I think the game is going to be a million miles a second.”