Many rematches among AAA girls regional basketball showdowns tonight
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's often said that familiarity breeds contempt, and that's the biggest hurdle coaches will be guarding against tonight.
The Class AAA girls basketball regional co-finals feature several rematches from the regular season, but this time the losers will turn in their jerseys and head home while the winners fulfill their dream of moving on to Charleston. The two regional co-champions advance to the state tournament, which will take place March 6-9 at the Charleston Civic Center.
Region 3 rematches include George Washington (16-8), which finished ninth in the final Associated Press poll, hosting No. 7 Princeton (18-5) and Capital (9-13) visiting No. 1 and defending state champion Greenbrier East (24-0).
In Region 4, St. Albans (14-10) hosts red-hot Logan (14-9) as the teams face off for the first time while Winfield (12-12) visits No. 2 Spring Valley (21-3) for a second meeting.
The other regional co-finals feature Wheeling Park (14-9) visiting Morgantown (18-5) and Parkersburg South (16-7) hosting University (18-6) in Region 1. Morgantown and Park will be squaring off for the third time, with the Mohigans winning the two previous games. South and University will also be tangling for the third time, with the Hawks owning the upper hand with two victories.
In Region 2, Martinsburg (14-6) visits Hampshire (11-12) and Hedgesville (17-7) hosts Elkins (6-16). The four teams involved didn't face each other during the season.
GW defeated Princeton 61-56 a couple of weeks ago to lock up the East Division title of the Mountain State Athletic Conference and earn a berth into the championship game during the Night of Champions.
"It's always tough to beat a team twice, especially a team like Princeton, who's been state-ranked all year,'' said GW coach Jamie LaMaster, whose team has advanced to the state semifinals the past two seasons. "I do like the experience we have.
"This is the third regional [co-]final game we've had in the last three years and all three have been here at GW. We're going to have to do all the right things.''
The matchup features three scorers in the top 10 of the MSAC in Princeton senior guard McKenzie Akers (conference-best 24.9 points per game), GW senior guard Rachel Ward (17.9) and Patriots junior post Kelli Jo Harrison (16.5).
In the last meeting, GW survived a 32-point performance from Akers as the Tigers closed within a couple of points late in the game, forcing Ward to knock down several pressure-packed free throws to seal the victory. Ward finished with 20 points, Harrison added 17 and senior center Leslie Gilmore turned in a career-high 15 points. Harrison and Gilmore also finished with double-digit rebound totals.
"If we can control the glass and those guards a little bit ... if you think you're going to stop them you're fooling yourself,'' LaMaster said. "We have to be the stronger team inside.''
Capital has the unenviable task of traveling to Greenbrier County to face the undefeated Spartans. The Cougars, though, made a game of it the last time, losing 68-57.
"We got off to a bad start against them [then] played much, much better in the second half,'' said Capital coach B.J. Calabrese. "We lost by 11 but really felt that the game could've and should've been closer than what it was."
The Cougars rely on senior guards Khadijah Lee (13.1) and Keke Walker (10.7) while St. Joseph 6-foot transfer Dashia Foster has given them an inside presence. East is led by senior wing Bianca Andre', who averages 19.6 points to lead three double-figure scorers.
Winfield lost by 30 points at home to Spring Valley in late January. The Generals only have one double-digit scorer in Haeley Moore (10.9) while the Timberwolves rely on the inside-outside combination of Madison Morris (17.8) and Sarah Kelly (10.4).
St. Albans and Logan didn't face each other during the regular season. The Red Dragons swept their section but scored just 38 points per game in doing so. The Wildcats upset No. 3 and MSAC champion Huntington on its home floor then lost by one point to Spring Valley in the section final.
SA sophomore post Breanna Propst averages 16.5 points but is the only Dragon in double figures. Logan features a one-two punch of 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Shayna Gore (17.7), who has exploded for 27 and 36 points, respectively, in the last two games, and 6-2 freshman post Monica Mitchell (14.9), who has had games of 21 and 18.
"We've gotten into a habit of playing pretty good basketball, having the lead at halftime and coming out with a lack of energy in the third quarter and letting teams back into the game,'' said SA coach Scott James. "We've just got to come out with more energy and desire and we'll be fine.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.