It's been quite the roller-coaster ride for George Washington.The Patriots began the preseason fifth in the Class AAA Associated Press poll, only to drop out after losing eight of 12 games in the middle of the regular season.GW (15-9) seems to have caught fire again, winning its section title to set up a home game against No. 10 Woodrow Wilson (15-9) at 7 tonight in the Region 3 co-finals. The winners advance to the state tournament, which will take place March 7-10 at the Civic Center.There are two other games tonight involving Kanawha Valley teams with No. 3 South Charleston (20-3) hosting No. 7 Spring Valley (18-6), while Winfield (10-13) visits No. 9 Huntington (18-6) in the Region 4 co-finals. (See Page 2B for regional pairings.)GW finally defeated Parkersburg South in last week's section final after falling to the Patriots twice during the regular season.It all seems to be coming together for GW, which started two freshmen at guard. In addition, senior guard Adrian Cunningham transferred from Poca after the team folded because of injuries and, after a lengthy appeals process, was finally ruled eligible 10 games ago."In the beginning we thought bringing back four starters from a state semifinals team would be a good nucleus,'' said GW coach Jamie LaMaster."In reality I had to blend a freshman starter in Alanna [Mobayed] and then Adrian's arrival took some time. We've changed our lineup twice and started eight different kids. I think right now we've got it where we want to be.''GW defeated Woodrow Wilson 75-69 at home Feb. 13.
"Whichever way it goes I'm glad we're here at GW,'' LaMaster said. "I don't like to travel for these games. We have a team full of hard working kids that fill up the stat sheet. They all bring something different.''GW senior center Alexa Peoples averages 14.4 points, followed by sophomore forward Kelli Jo Harrison (12.3) and junior guard Rachel Ward (12.8).Woodrow comes in off a loss to Greenbrier East in the Region 3 Section 2 final, but has coach Bernie Bostick back on the bench after missing some time for medical reasons. Guards Olivia Moore (17.9) and Alexis Allen (10.9) trigger the Flying Eagles offense.SC went untested in its sectional, rolling past St. Albans and Winfield by an average margin of 41.5 points.
"We're starting to come together a little bit better defensively,'' said SC coach Gary Greene, whose team finished state runner-up the past two seasons. "It's top-10 teams now."You've got to be really prepared. Our team has really picked up team defense. We've played unselfish offensively all year long and we're really looking for the open scorer.''
The Black Eagles downed Spring Valley 67-56 at home Feb. 3. Senior guard Brittany Gordon, who leads the Mountain State Athletic Conference in scoring at 23.9 points, powers SC and is averaging 30.5 points in her last four games.Forward Keke Allen (16.9), Alexxis Tunstalle (13.9) and Gel Villanueva (10.6) are also capable scorers. Tunstalle is averaging 23.7 points over her last three games."She's given us a little bit of spark and has taken some pressure off Brittany,'' Green said of Tunstalle's play.Spring Valley sports a lineup of youth and experience with senior guard Megan Perry (13.2) and freshman forward Madison Morrison (12.5).Winfield pulled a mild upset of Putnam County rival Hurricane in the section semifinals. The Generals, who lost to Huntington 81-52 to open their season, are led by Bethany Jordan (16.8) and Haeley Moore (11.1).
Huntington seems to be getting hot at the right time, too.The Highlanders dispatched Spring Valley in the section finals, avenging an earlier loss. Forward Kiana Evans is third in the MSAC in scoring at 20.1 points while forward Dominique Gibson (12.9) and guard Kisha Adkins (12.8) are also double-digit scorers.Tonight's other AAA regionals find North Marion (14-10), the three-time defending state champion and a loser in its section final, traveling to No. 5 Wheeling Park (20-4) and No. 6 Morgantown (18-6) at No. 8 Fairmont Senior (19-5) in the Region 1 co-finals.In Region 2, Martinsburg (15-7) hosts Robert C. Byrd (15-9) and Hedgesville (17-7) visits No. 1 Bridgeport (23-1). The other half of Region 3 has Parkersburg South (14-10) visiting No. 2 Greenbrier East (22-1).Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org