Timing is everything in sports.And so it has been with the St. Albans Shootout, which begins its 10th year of bringing together the state's top girls high school basketball teams and players.This year's edition, in which 38 schools will play 83 games in two days at four locations in St. Albans, begins its two-day run Tuesday. Admission is $3 per person for each day's session of games. (See Page 2B for schedule.)The Shootout owes its durability to its unique positioning at the end of the three-week summer practice period, which runs June 11-29."It comes at the right time at the end of the three-week period,'' said St. Albans coach and Shootout organizer Scott James."All the coaches are putting together the Xs and Os and get to see how they're coming along and what they need to work on. It allows [coaches] to tie everything together that we've worked on during this three-week period.''St. Joseph, the four-time Class A defending state champion, is the only reigning state titlist participating in the Shootout, but there are plenty of elite teams in the event.George Washington, Huntington, Morgantown, Parkersburg South, Princeton, Spring Valley and Wheeling Park are the top AAA teams. GW advanced to the state semifinals this past season while Huntington and Morgantown made the final eight.Chapmanville, Clay County, PikeView, Scott and Tolsia highlight the AA field. Scott has lost in the title game the past three years while PikeView and Clay also earned state berths this season. Buffalo, Charleston Catholic, Parkersburg Catholic and Pocahontas County are the top teams in Class A. Charleston Catholic and Pocahontas were state tournament qualifiers.
"We've got some great teams and some great matchups both days,'' James said. "We've got a strong double-A and a strong single-A field."The field from top to bottom is good. As far as I know everybody is bringing their best players. We're going to have some of the best teams and best players in the state of West Virginia there.''The top AAA players include Wheeling Park's Emily Puskarich, Princeton's McKenzie Akers, whose 21.6 points were second-best in the Mountain State Athletic Conference, Robert C. Byrd's Alicia Noble, who guided the Eagles to states for the first time since 2009, and Huntington's Kiana Evans, who helped the Highlanders to the state semifinals, averaged 20.5 points.In AA, Tolsia's Krista Maynard was a first-team all-state selection. In Class A, St. Joseph's Mychal Thompson was ranked among the nation's top sophomores last season and teammate Griffin Dempsey poured in 52 points in a game. Parkersburg Catholic's Leah Hughes was a first-team all-stater.Other Kanawha Valley teams participating include Capital, Herbert Hoover, Hurricane, Nitro, Riverside, Sissonville and Winfield. McKinley Middle School will also play a game during the Shootout.Some intriguing matchups Tuesday include Huntington-Wheeling Park, Spring Valley-Morgantown, Morgantown-Huntington and Spring Valley-Wheeling Park. On Wednesday, GW-Wheeling Park, Morgantown-GW, Wheeling Park-Princeton, St. Joe-Wheeling Park highlight the schedule.
James said Gilmer County, Patrick Henry (Ohio), Morgantown and Washington are first-time participants in the Shootout."There are a lot of coaches that say this is the best shootout they come to,'' he said. "It's organized and runs smooth."I have high school coaches at the state tournament come up and say, 'We'd like to get in your Shootout this year.' I think it's the teams we bring in. The teams that come down give us credibility. We're getting some of the best teams in each class. They get to see teams they don't normally see.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org