MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Many high school basketball teams across the state are playing in different classifications as they enter a COVID-shortened season in less than two weeks. The WVSSAC added a fourth class on a two-year trial basis. Bridgeport is the only team to be bumped up two levels to Class AAAA. Herman Pierson led the BHS girls basketball team to the state tournament last winter and their path back to Charleston will look much different with teams like Morgantown, University and Wheeling Park standing in their way.
“This year, the focus has been to show them where we are in looking at sectionals and regionals and to lay out the path for them,” Pierson said on the Tribe Talk Podcast. “Here’s what you need to do, and if you can improve enough between now and April, you will have a chance to win your section and get a home game for the regional. That is one of our goals at this point. Once you get that far, anything can happen.”
The Indians were just 5-7 in mid-January last winter. They finished strong, qualifying for the state tournament with a 13-12 record. Bridgeport took top-seeded North Marion into overtime in the quarterfinal round. Pierson will welcome back a pair of third-team all-state selections in senior Paige Humble and sophomore Gabrielle Reep.
“We do have more girls out than we have ever had in my years as an assistant and as a head coach. We have 23 girls. I think the most we have had before this is 19. That’s exciting and we have several freshmen, some of which will see playing time.”
With just two weeks of preseason practice to get ready for their opener against fellow Class AA quarterfinalist Fairmont Senior on March 3, Pierson says a compressed window to prepare will alter the team’s usual routine.
“We will probably run an abbreviated amount of things compared to what we would normally run offensively. Same thing on the defensive side because you simply don’t have time to teach what you would normally teach over the course of a season.
“You are not going to have the practice time to correct and improve off errors during the season. That’s one of the reasons over the course of the first two weeks, we are going to cut down things that we are trying to run and trying to put in. We’ll try to do a few things well and then maybe to the point we can execute well, we may add things during the year.”
In addition to the new-look preseason, Pierson will also have some of his athletes splitting time with spring sports once the calendar turns to April.
“I have several girls that are softball players and I also have a few who run track. At times, it will certainly interfere especially at a school the size of Bridgeport where you have approximately 800 kids. It will be more of a problem for us than someone like Morgantown High, who has nearly 2,000 students.”
The Indians have seventeen regular season games on their schedule in a span of five weeks. Pierson hopes a lesson taught to his team last year can be applied to this condensed season.
“During the year when things were rough, I said, ‘What is the next best thing to playing and winning?’ They looked at me with a puzzled look and I said, ‘Playing and losing’. Now, after not getting to play, they really understand what I meant. It is quite an opportunity in high school just to be able to take the floor and play.”