As the curtain opened Monday on a new high school basketball season, a few local teams are looking to remain major contenders for state championships.Class AAA George Washington and Class A Charleston Catholic each made trips to the state tournament finals, with the Irish coming out on top and the Patriots coming within one point of back-to-back titles.For George Washington, a 33-32 loss to Hedgesville prevented the Patriots from becoming the first Class AAA back-to-back champion since Huntington's run of three in a row in 2005-2007.If the Patriots are to return to the promised land once again, the team will have to rely heavily on senior point guard Luke Eddy, the team's only returning starter."I think in the middle of last year it just kind of clicked for him," GW coach Rick Greene said of Eddy. "He could always play — he's been a good player since he was a freshman. I just thought in the middle of last year he jacked it up a notch. He really got the grasp of everything he needed to do for the team."For the record, Eddy averaged 16 points per game last season and that number will likely have to increase this year. A large reason is the loss of seniors Dustin Crouser and Cole Salmons, both of whom were injured during football season.Add to that losing Tino diTrapano, Thomas Francke, and Darian Williams to graduation and Ryan Switzer choosing not to play, and Greene and the Patriots have a lot of work to do."It's been one of the best runs period and definitely the best one here at GW," Greene said. "This was the first group of kids in school history to make three straight state tournaments. When you do that, you have talent and kids that are unselfish."
As for Catholic, the Irish buzzed through the Class A field to claim its third crown in seven years. Catholic also finished as the state runner-up three times in a row during that stretch (2008-2010).
The road back to the Charleston Civic Center figures to be tougher this year as defending Class AA champion Tug Valley and Magnolia, which also made the Class AA field last year, both drop down in classification."I think Class A is going to be better than it has been in years, depth-wise," coach Bill McClanahan said. "Everyone acknowledges that Tug Valley and Magnolia are the mountain everybody's got to climb."Leading scorer Nick George (13.6 points per game) is back to help the Irish attack as is returning senior guard David Godwin.
GW and Catholic weren't the only schools to make an appearance in the big show last season, and it would be a mistake to ignore South Charleston and its recent run of success.
The Black Eagles have made the state tournament in all three seasons under Vic Herbert, and he has five seniors to work with and maybe his best freshman class yet."I don't know what [SC's talent] means in wins and losses, but top to bottom this team has a chance to be very special," Herbert said. "This is the deepest team I've ever had. Usually I try to get seven or eight in a rotation but this year we could truly go 10 deep with guys coming off the bench and not lose much."The Black Eagles will be led by point guard Rashaud Kincaid and fellow seniors Trevond Reese, Hunter Moles, Neal Brown, and Devon Harris.SC is currently riding a streak of 26 straight Mountain State Athletic Conference wins and 21 consecutive wins at home.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.