Rhea Smith is one of four underclass starters for South Charleston.
St. Albans finally got a break last year, hosting its first regional under the new format that qualifies two teams from the sectional tournament.The Red Dragons, though, failed to capitalize on their home-court advantage, losing out on a state tournament berth.SA will get another chance when it hosts Cabell Midland at 7 tonight in the Class AAA Region 4 co-final. Winfield visits Huntington in the other Region 4 co-final.In the Region 3 co-finals, South Charleston hosts Woodrow Wilson and George Washington visits Greenbrier East. Each co-final winner advances to the state tournament, which will take place March 12-15 at the Charleston Civic Center. (See Page 2B for statewide pairings.)SA (19-5), which finished seventh in the final Associated Press poll, has turned in its best season since its last state tournament appearance in 1993. SA owns wins over No. 5 Huntington and No. 6 SC and nearly won a share of the title at the Big Atlantic Classic before falling in overtime to University.Red Dragons coach Scott James said he has seen a resiliency in his team this year."Our girls have done a good job of rising to the occasion,'' said James. "Last year we got to the regional finals and after Logan beat us [our players] started believing in themselves and believing they can compete with the best teams in the state.
"They don't feel there's a game they can't win and that's important. Being there last year was a plus for us and I think they'll use that experience to their benefit.''SA junior Breanna Propst leads the way with 13.9 points and sophomore guard Torri Wilson adds 10.5 plus ball-handling and court awareness. The Red Dragons start two sophomores with two freshmen the first off the bench."We're probably playing as good as we have throughout the year,'' said James, whose team beat Hurricane and Winfield to advance.SA won at Midland 55-43 Feb. 19, but the Knights (17-6) have since upset No. 4 Spring Valley and took Huntington to overtime of their section final before losing.Midland 6-foot-2 forward Emily Pitkin (14.1) and 5-11 post Sierra Jordan (13.8) pose matchup problems."It's a tall order, no pun intended,'' said James. "Their guards are hitting some shots they weren't hitting and that makes them a more dangerous team with the post players they have."We just can't let their bigs catch the ball and score all day long. [We have to] put pressure on their guards and be physical in the process.''Here's a quick look at the other regional co-finals involving Kanawha Valley teams: