CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tug Valley's cross-class championship run, capped with Saturday's Class A title, made a lot of people happy not only in Mingo County, but across West Virginia.Those would be the people who take notice that no public school had captured a Class A crown since Williamson in 2001.Since then, Wheeling Central has taken seven championships, Charleston Catholic three and Parkersburg Catholic and Madonna one each. That string, however, ended on Saturday.Interestingly, Tug Valley coach Garland "Rabbit'' Thompson was an assistant to Curt Fletcher in 2001 on Williamson's title team.Thompson, addressing the issue after the game, was more impressed with his program becoming the first to win state championships in different divisions in back-to-back years."I think that's very special,'' Thompson said, "being back-to-back, the first one - double-A and single-A. I'm tickled to death for the whole school and administration and our four seniors and this basketball team out there celebrating on the floor.''Catholic coach Bill McClanahan was also very diplomatic when asked about the public-private rift, which has grown in recent years as private schools have dominated the high-profile sports."A lot of people make a big deal about that,'' McClanahan said. "My perspective - and this team's perspective and our program's perspective - is that we don't see it that way. Maybe we're color blind."To us, we're all in the class we're assigned to play. We play the young men who come through our system. We strive to get to the championship our class holds. Whoever the opponent is, we want the opportunity to compete against them for that. Congratulations to Tug Valley - whether they're private or public, the most important thing is they're the state champ. That's not my conversation. It's good for them, and it's good for us, and I'm OK with that.''
Technically speakingMcClanahan wound up in the unusual position of sort of calling a technical foul on himself late in Saturday's game.Charleston Catholic reserve player Aaron Persily, who was listed as No. 54 in the scorebook, was wearing uniform No. 52 for the game. So McClanahan knew that if Persily entered the game at any point, the Irish would be assessed a technical foul.With 1:26 remaining and the Irish down by 15 points, that time came as Catholic prepared to empty its bench. Assistant coach Fred McPherson and McClanahan called the three game officials to the scorer's table, explained what they were going to do, and the officials duly called the T.Tug's Mikey Newsome then hit a pair of free throws for the final points of the game.
"We were aware at the beginning of the game that we had a missed number in the book,'' McClanahan said, "and when we got ready to make the substitution for the young man, I still wanted him on the floor.
"The young man volunteered not to go in, but I told him and the other young men that those two points meant nothing to me. It was more important that he be on the floor. I explained I was willing to absorb that to get him on the floor.''Fancy meeting you hereBluefield's Lykel Collier and Fairmont Senior's Jarin Hilson didn't meet Saturday on the Charleston Civic Center floor for the first time.The two were teammates on an AAU team for five years before their teams met up in the Class AA state championship, which was won by Collier's Beavers in convincing fashion, 63-43.Collier scored 12 points, including 10 in the opening half, as Bluefield took a 36-23 lead at halftime. He also added three rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Hilson led the Polar Bears with 11 points and contributed six boards, five assists and two steals. Both players were named to the all-tournament team."It was a big challenge,'' Collier said of guarding Hilson. "He's a good ball-handler and he's a good player. I knew going in we weren't friends on the court. I just had to go out there and play against him like he was another person.''
"He dictated the game,'' said Hilson of Collier. "He did what he wanted the whole game. Their whole offense ran through him. I just wish we could've defended [Collier and Anthony Eades] better.''Encore! Encore!Bluefield is already thinking about a repeat next season.The Beavers defeated Fairmont Senior 63-43 to capture their first Class AA state title since 1995. Bluefield also won it the next year, so there's no pressure."That's the motivation, see if we can do like the '95-'96 teams,'' said Collier.Bluefield only loses one starter from this year's team and returns junior guard Anthony Eades, who poured in 27 points Saturday against the Polar Bears. Collier, all-tournament pick D.J. Edwards and junior forward Michael Yost also return."Get bigger and stronger,'' Collier said. "It's going to be hard getting back to Charleston. Teams are going to be looking for us.''