The Mountain State is getting into the act of drawing some of the East’s top high school basketball teams to play within its borders.
This weekend at Logan Fieldhouse’s Willie Akers Arena, the Wildcats will host the King Coal Classic, a two-day, four-game event.
On Thursday, host Logan will face Pinewood Prep (N.C.) at 7:30 p.m. before Princeton Day Academy (Md.) faces Huntington Prep at 9:30 p.m.
On Friday, Logan faces Princeton Day Academy followed by George Washington (W.Va.) battling Pinewood Prep.
Here are capsules on each team.
Princeton Country Day (Record: 14-0): Is led by the ever-improving play of point guard Chris Hampton and owns a 22-point victory over Mountain State Academy in the Bull City Classic Tournament of Champions in November. Senior guard Isaac Fulwood and 6-foot-9 forward Eric McKnight are worth the price of admission.
Logan (Record: 5-1): Features WVU signee Noah Cottrill, who played at Mountain State Academy last year. Wildcats are among favorites to win state’s Class AAA title. Leading scorers are Cottrill and Paul Herbert Williamson, the son of former Marshall standout Andy Paul Williamson. Wildcats get help from the improved play of guard/forward Deyonta Coleman.
Pinewood Prep (9-11): The alma mater of Clemson University reserve Milton Jennings, the Panthers are going through a transition after compiling a 132-23 record in the last four years.
George Washington (8-0): Also among the favorites to win the West Virginia Class AAA crown, the Patriots were scheduled to play Logan on Friday in the King Coal Classic, but now the Patriots will face Pinewood Prep on Friday. George Washington is one of the state’s deepest teams. Spearheaded by a deep stable of guards and 6-7 forward and Mountain State Academy transfer Tyquane Goard.
The boys high school basketball landscape is blessed with a clear frontrunner for the Evans Award – the award given to the state’s top player and voted on by the roughly 100 members of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. The girls side, however, is not.
As Huntington High School’s Whitney Bays continues to rehabilitate a knee injury suffered during AAU season last summer, the chase for the Rat Thom Award – the girls equivalent to the Evans Award – is wide open.
The University of Maryland recruit and last year’s winner of the Thom Award, who averaged 25.2 points and 12.3 rebounds as a junior, is not expected to return for the regular season, which leaves her out of the equation.
Here’s a look at just a few of the many candidates for the award.
Mariah Byard, North Marion, Jr., 5-10, G: The leader of the defending Class AAA champions hit the game-winning bucket for the Huskies in last year’s state title game. So far this year, North Marion is 9-1 and 6-0 against West Virginia opponents.
Erin Bailes, Huntington, Jr., 6-0, F: Bailes has become the leader of the Highlanders, who have lost in the last three state title games. Huntington is 7-2.
Jasmyn Hosby, Washington, So., 5-6, G: OK, so it’s a little early for her. Still, the point guard for the second-year program is averaging 18.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 steals per game for the Patriots.
Jackie Brewer, Martinsburg, Sr., 5-10, G: She scored 21 points against Hosby and Washington and had a 35-point game against St. Maria Goretti in her second year after transferring from Handley High School in Winchester, Va. Brewer has signed to play at Division I Virginia Commonwealth.
Hallie Gunnoe, Summers County, Jr., 5-10, G: Gunnoe was a first-team All-State Class AA player last year who has sparked the three-time defending state champions. The Bobcats are 9-0 and have defeated their opponents by an average of 38 points.
Kara Pollinger, Tolsia, Sr., 5-7, G: Pollinger, also a returning first-team All-Stater, has the Rebels off to a 7-3 start and had a 17-point, eight-assist, seven-rebound performance last week.
Rich Stevens, a sportswriter for the Charleston Daily Mail, covers West Virginia for MaxPreps.