Class AAAA boys basketball state tournament preview

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Perhaps the greatest indication of the strength of this year’s Class AAAA bracket is that fact that one of the most storied programs in the state is the No. 8 seed. Woodrow Wilson comes to Charleston with a 10-11 record but the Flying Eagles are the only team to defeat George Washington and they own four wins over state tournament teams. Beckley will face No. 1 seed Morgantown in the quarterfinals. The Mohigans are 16-1 with five wins against tourney teams.

“I think we played a pretty tough schedule, the best we could put together this year,” said Morgantown head coach Dave Tallman. “I think we are prepared. We had the two-week break before sectionals so we have fresh legs. We are healthy for the first time all year.”

George Washington (14-1) is the No. 2 seed. The Patriots defended their Mountain State Athletic Conference title. Their senior backcourt combo of Mason Pinkett and Alex Yoakum combine to average 40 points a game.

“Right now, we feel like we are in midseason form in other years. But everybody is this year as well,” said George Washington head coach Rick Greene. “Improvement has been the main thing we have emphasized. We wanted to play the best we could getting to this point in the year and see what happens.”

GW has drawn Jefferson in the quarterfinals. The Cougars went 11-4 and feature four double digit scorers.

“Two years ago, Daion Taylor, our leading scorer was a freshman and he started for us. Ahmad Lesesne, he is a senior for us, and Jaden Butts all played as freshmen and sophomores,” said Jefferson head coach Richard Lewis. “So we have kind of been building this thing for the last two or three years.”

Another eastern panhandle squad has earned the No. 3 seed. Martinsburg lost their season opener to Morgantown and has won fourteen games in a row since. Like many coaches, veteran head coach Dave Rogers has been shuffling lineups throughout the year.

“It has been a strange year,” said Rogers. “I am not sure we have had our full team together at any one game. At that point if you are a starter, you have to step up a little bit more and take it up to the next level. If you are coming off the bench, then you need to fill in. It has developed our players off the bench.”

The Bulldogs will face No. 6 seed Cabell Midland (12-4) in the quarterfinals. The Knights earned their third consecutive regional title.

“We think we are that team where we can get up and down the floor and we are really athletic,” said Cabell Midland assistant coach Cristina Schmidt. “We have to move the ball and when we do that, we succeed really well.”

And in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 game MSAC runner-up Huntington (11-3) will face University (11-1). The Highlanders started the season 9-0 before a COVID pause. Joe Schmidle’s Hawks won the 2019 Class AAA title but this year’s team has a much different look in personnel and style.

“We are not the most glamorous. I can tell you that.” Schmidle said. “One of the guys I used to play ball with that coaches at Preston now said that you guys are playing old school basketball. And we are. We aren’t lighting it up from the three-point line. If we make two or three 3-pointers in a game, that is about average. We try to take advantage of our skill inside with our height. And we try to be patient until we get a shot that we like.”





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