Hurricane gets a rematch
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Midway through the 2011-12 season, Hurricane's basketball program announced its arrival as a state contender. That's the day the Redskins beat Woodrow Wilson.
Hurricane cemented its status as a legitimate state power this season when it forged its way into the Class AAA rankings and earned its first state tournament berth.
Now, interestingly, the Redskins get to see how far they've progressed when they take on that very same Woodrow Wilson at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday in a quarterfinal game at the Civic Center.
For Hurricane (20-5), ranked 10th in the state and seeded No. 7 for this tournament, it's the second game this season against the Flying Eagles (21-4), the state's No. 2 team and No. 2 tournament seed. The Redskins dropped an 83-66 decision to Woodrow on Dec. 18.
Because that game was so long ago - and both teams are playing much better now (Woodrow has won 17 in a row and Hurricane 12 of 13) - Redskins coach Lance Sutherland isn't sure if reviewing the first meeting will tell him anything of much value in preparation for this meeting.
"Well, yes and no,'' Sutherland said. "I know some things we don't want to do against them that we did the first time because they're so athletic. We tried to press them at Hurricane. That was the game plan going in - that's the game plan all year - but they got a big lead and we had to battle back. We used all our energy battling back in the fourth quarter to make it a five-point game and ran out of gas.
"Also, you can look for tendencies [from the first game]. See different stuff during the game and what people tried to do and not to do. That's what we've been doing.''
Woodrow Wilson coach Ron Kidd, meanwhile, can't make use of the first game for strategic purposes even if he wanted.
"We don't even have a tape of that game to look at and see what we did against them, see how we played,'' Kidd said.
"I remember we kind of slowed down their little point guard [Rasaan Harris] and [Garrett DeFries] had a big game against us. But they're playing a lot different now than they were then.''
DeFries dropped in a career-high 20 points against the Flying Eagles in the first game. For Woodrow, five players tallied 12 or more points that night, led by 18 from senior point guard Andrew Johnson.
Both teams appear to be miles ahead of where they were back in December. The Flying Eagles have broken away from a 4-4 start and haven't lost since. The Redskins' only setback over the last seven weeks was a one-point loss to George Washington in the Mountain State Athletic Conference consolation game.
"We're playing overall team basketball on both sides of the ball,'' Kidd said. "We're playing good offense and good defense, good help defense. We're doing things a little better. We grew up as the season went along.''
Sutherland noticed that, during its first eight games, Woodrow Wilson was twice held to 44 points (losses to South Charleston and Winfield) and three other times never made it out of the 50s.
Since then, however, the Eagles have scored at least 63 points in every game and have been held below 70 just once in their last 12 (a 63-31 win versus Morgantown).
"I think Beckley has just played to their strengths,'' Sutherland said. "They're very athletic and can push the ball. When they were losing games 48-45, that's not a typical Beckley team, less than 50 points. You look now and they're getting at least 70 or 80 points. That's a typical Beckley team.''
Sutherland said his team has progressed to where it can thrive even if it doesn't get its own transition and 3-point game going.
"For us, the defense has picked up a little bit,'' he said. "Last year, we couldn't have won a game in the 40s. That wasn't our style of play. But we've adjusted to be able to do that.
"We figured that this game will be up and down the floor. However, whose defense does a little better will probably be the one to win the game.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.