Bruce McKean: How do the record-setting Lady Warriors stack up?
Dunmore, WV –
MaxPreps.com rates the matchup with Trinity Christian a dead heat!
All eight West Virginia Class A girls basketball quarter-finalist teams open on Thursday, March 8, in the 2012 girls state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center. Here is a look at the teams that stand between the #5 seed Pocahontas County Lady Warriors (21-4) and a first-ever win at states, not to mention a first state championship in any sport at PCHS. The PCHS boys soccer team under Mike Burns made it to the A/AA state championship in 2008 versus Class AA Berkeley Springs and lost 5-2 for the highest PCHS finish in any sport. The PCHS girls soccer team under Mary Sue Burns lost that same year to eventual state champion Charleston Catholic in the semi-finals 4-0.
The first opponent at states this year for the #5 seed Lady Warriors will be the Lady Warriors of #4 seed Trinity Christian School (23-1) of Morgantown. And Trinity’s school colors sound very close to the maroon and gold of PCHS. This is Trinity’s third straight year at states, and their seeds were a #7 last year and a #6 in 2010. Trinity’s one loss this season, 53-45, was at home to #6 seed Tucker County (20-5) the day after Pocahontas came from behind to nip Tucker in the PVC Championship at Elkins High School by a score of 55-52. Those two games indicate that Pocahontas has a good chance to beat Trinity and advance to Friday’s semi-final game versus the winner of #1 seed and three-time defending state champion St. Joseph Central of Huntington (17-6) and #8 seed Midland Trail (11-13). St. Joe received the #2 seed last year, 2011, and #1 seeds in 2010 and 2009. Midland Trail was handled easily by PCHS 62-34 in the Region 3 Section 1 Championship at PCHS, and the Lady Warriors only hit one three and missed a ton of free throws in the game.
Potomac Valley Conference foe Tucker County will be making its eighth-straight state tournament appearance as will #7 seed Charleston Catholic (13-10). Tucker blasted Clay-Battelle (16-7) 72-27 in their Region II final. Pocahontas will move to Region II next season in the opposite section to Tucker. Tucker has won four straight games since losing to PCHS and 14 of its last 15 contests. #6 seed Tucker (20-5) opens at 9:30 AM versus #3 Williamstown (20-4), and although Williamstown won a state championship in 2003 and beat PCHS in 2004 with Molly Kiger 46-43, the Yellowjackets have not been to states since then. Region I, with five top-ten teams in the two main polls this year, is the toughest Class A region to get to states and has the winningest team in history, Parkersburg Catholic, plus Wheeling Central, St. Marys and Weirton Madonna. St. Marys lost to St. Joe in the state championship the last two years. Williamstown is led by senior Liz Flowers and Kenzie Smith who had 26 and 22 points in their win over Madonna.
All five St. Joe starters scored in double-digits in their region IV final over Man 92-34, and Griffin Dempsey scored 25 points including four straight treys in a 1:21 span of the first frame. West Virginia sportswriters player of the year (Mary Ostrowski Award) third place finisher 5’8″ guard and sophomore Mychal Johnson had a quadruple-double output of 14 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and 11 steals. Other Irish players in double digits were Dashia Foster 14 points on the low block, Rachel Lee 13 points on the perimeter and Asia Petitte 12 points mid-range. If PCHS gets by Trinity, their next opponent is St. Joe at 7:15 PM on Friday, March 9.
St. Joe is the only returning champion from last year, since Class AA five-time champ Summers County and Class AAA three-time winner North Marion both lost in regionals. All three #1 ranked teams in both the AP and Coaches Polls are #1 seeds, and only Class AA Westside (Wyoming County) is undefeated at 25-0. Bridgeport (24-1) and St. Joe (17-6) are tops in Class AAA and A. It is sad that none of us will get to see the talents of the #1 scorer on MaxPreps.com all year, Candace Brown, of Summers County. Brown finished second in voting for the top player in WV.
The 1 PM game Thursday is between #2 seed Wheeling Central Catholic (22-3) and #7 seed Charleston Catholic. The Wheeling private school should win after beating Charleston by 23 at home and by 19 at Charleston during the regular season, but it is sometimes hard to beat a team for the third time. Central beat PCHS last year at states by 48-41 last year and by 39-37 in 2003. Central beat city rivals Class AAA #4 seed Wheeling Park (21-4) twice this season, both by eight points. Wheeling Central’s three losses included twice to Ohio power Shadyside and by two-points to #2 seed Class AA Scott (22-2) who has WVU recruit and player of the year Makenzie White. Coach Ashley Shepler of Charleston Catholicl has never missed states in her now eight years of coaching and never lost in the first round, but she also probably never lost 80% of her stats to graduation before. Park coach Meredith Dailer is due to have a baby at any moment so, the coach may or may not be on the bench Thursday at 11:15AM.
Six Class A teams at states this year were in the final AP Poll– #1 St. Joe, #2 Central, #4 Williamstown, #5 Trinity, #7 PCHS and #8 Tucker. #3 St. Marys, #6 Parkersburg Catholic, #9 Clay-Battelle and #10 Madonna did not make it, but #13 Charleston Catholic and unranked Midland Trail did make the cut.
Pocahontas County;s seeding the last three years that was voted on by the coaches making it to regionals were: #4 in 2011, #5 in 2010 and #4 in 2009. The Lady Warriors lost all seven games at states in their seven trips: 21-52 to Mercer Christian Academy (seven-time state champs) in 2002, 37-39 second best finish to Wheeling Central Catholic in 2003, 43-46 to Williamstown third best finish in 2004, 40-47 to Parkersburg Catholic in 2009, 39-40 best finish in 2010 and 41-48 to Wheeling Central in 2011.
The 2010-11 team had the most wins of any Lady Warriors team with a 21-2 record. This year’s version of the Lady Warriors already has 21 wins, and can break the win record with one win at states. Individual records have fallen in scoring, rebounding and threes in a quarter over the last two seasons for Chloe Bland, Miranda McNabb and Tristin Day. Miranda McNabb, cousin of 2004 graduate Ashley McNabb, is only three blocks from matching the career blocks record of 163 blocks currently held by Mindy Sharp from 2003-06.
MaxPreps.com currently has The Lady Warriors of Trinity and Pocahontas County tied in their Playoff Race Rating at #5 behind #1 St. Joe, #2 Wheeling Central, #3 Williamstown and #4 Tucker County. Tucker is .4 point ahead of Trinity and PCHS. #1 St. Joe’s six losses are to OH, KY, GA and TN teams with no losses to the WV teams on their schedule. St. Joe beat common opponent of PCHS, Buffalo, 86-42, and PCHS took Buffalo 90-53; both games were played in February at Buffalo. Tucker County played Buffalo in Charleston and won 64-35 in mid-December before the Buffalo program was shaken up with the departure of their head coach and the departure from the team of some top players.
When coaches Tim McClung and Kenny Lehman went to the SSAC offices in Parkersburg Sunday to finalize their team’s trip to Charleston, PCHS got their best draw ever for a hotel– the Embassy Suites. One fan commented that the lucky draw was a sign of a change in luck for the Lady Warriors, and this will be the year they get past the first round. Before seeding was switched to a vote by the coaches and even after, the Lady Warriors have always gotten a very tough first opponent. Trinty has the best record in the Class A field, but their strength of schedule is rated lower than PCHS by MaxPreps. I predict the Lady Warriors will do what no other group from PCHS has done before in addition to four straight trips to states and several records along the way.