The Mountain State’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

nitro lena elkins1

Nitro’s Lena Elkins (25) gets an enouraging yell from teammate Brooklyn Bowen during the Class AAA girls basketball state championship game against Fairmont Senior Saturday.

I was on the shelf for a week. It felt like a year.

I’d ask if I missed anything, but thanks to modern technology, even a COVID-19 quarantine couldn’t keep me away. I may not have been there to see it, but from afar I saw some amazing things over the past eight days.

First, I’d like to thank everyone that took the time to text or call well wishes. I tested positive for COVID a week ago Monday. I had an on-again, off-again fever, some general soreness and a bit of shortness of breath. Otherwise, I was fine.

Timing has never much been my thing, and that certainly rang true again. The week after WVU’s Gold-Blue Game and the week of the girls state basketball tournament, one that was extended by a class and a full day for the first time, certainly wasn’t ideal. I’m proud of all the guys from HD Media for powering us through with flying colors.

I was at home, reading, watching, streaming and listening to it all, learning some valuable lessons along the way.

Primarily this one: I learned exactly what quarantine means. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I’ve written stories of players and teams in quarantine without hardly a pause. Stories I wrote of the West Virginia men’s and women’s basketball teams in quarantines and bubbles at conference and national tournaments stick out the most.

But to talk or write about it is one thing. To be in it is something else. I’m a bit of a social butterfly and I love my outdoor activities — walking, fishing, golfing, yard work — I love all of it. But for eight days, I was largely trapped in a bedroom prison cell. I could hear the conversations and activities of my fiancé and stepdaughter through the walls, yet I could not join.

And as I have since I was young, I escaped reality through sports. From the triumphant (girls state champions) and the trivial (Pittsburgh Pirate baseball) to the overlooked (NASCAR at Kansas) and the overblown (NFL draft), the sports world turned on while I tuned in. And I had some takeaways.

n Has anyone ever seen anything like what Nitro pulled off in the Class AAA championship game against Fairmont Senior?

By now, this has been written about, videoed and reported on thoroughly, but since I’m just now getting my say, was that not as incredible as anything you’ve seen? Maybe having grown up in that community and graduated from Nitro High School myself, way back in 2003, it resonates more, but come on. Is there anyone that didn’t truly think that game was over the minute Baylee Goins hit the ground and reached for her knee?

I found a stream of the game and watched, waiting for the bottom to fall out on the Wildcats, but it never did. How the rest of the team held it together in the face of one of the state’s most tenacious defenses and against not one but two of the state’s premier players — Fairmont’s Marley Washenitz and Meredith Maier — I have no idea.

But I do know that if you tried to pitch that story in Hollywood, it would get turned down for being too unbelievable.

For a little while on Saturday, my cold shivers were replaced with the warm and fuzzies, and if you looked on as a neutral observer, I’m not sure how you didn’t feel at least a little of that as well.

n How did Darius Stills not get drafted?

Seriously, someone make it make sense. And yes, I know there are size concerns and variables that the scouts get paid to evaluate, but at some point does productivity on the field not matter? Stills was a consensus All-American a season ago. And again, I realize that he’s not the only consensus All-American to go undrafted, it has happened quite commonly in recent years.

The road for an undrafted free agent is a long one, but it’s not an impossible trek. I saw what kind of player Stills was week in and week out this year. I also saw his Twitter reactions as the picks and rounds slipped by. Now with a chance in Las Vegas, I know I for one ain’t about to bet against him.

n The most fitting Kyle Busch NASCAR win ever?

We should’ve seen it coming, right? Busch, on his birthday, wins a race literally called the Buschy McBusch Race at Kansas (you can’t even make that up). It was the second time in Busch’s career he’d run a race on his birthday and he has won them both. It also snapped a 12-race winless streak.

Most of you don’t want to hear this, but it was and is good for the sport. Busch embraces the role of heel as well if not better than any athlete in a real sport (no, pro wrestling doesn’t count), and for the heel to be truly divisive, he’s got to be good. As far as I’m concerned, it was good to see him back.

n Will this week be the most excited I’ve been to work in 12 years?

Probably. For over a year I’ve quoted athlete after athlete talking about the perspective the pandemic brought with it, and about how quickly things could be taken away. Well, in addition to plenty of spoonfuls of NyQuil, I took my dosage of humble pie as well.

About the same time this hits your eyes on Wednesday morning, I’m scheduled to be at the Charleston Coliseum for some boys basketball state tournament coverage with my quarantine now officially over. Coincidentally, I’m set to cover a Herbert Hoover team that will be playing with mostly its junior varsity team due to contact tracing.

Maybe the Huskies will provide another inspirational effort in a two-week period that has already included more than one. Or maybe the losses to the lineup will be too much to overcome.

I don’t know, but I’m more excited than I can describe to find out, live and in person. I hope to see you over there.

Contact Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pritt@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RPritt.