George Washington got a lot of mileage from its senior guards this season. In return, they helped the Patriots negotiate the road to another state championship.
Mason Pinkett and Alex Yoakum, who provided the bulk of the scoring and the intangibles for GW, were rewarded for their efforts by each being selected to the first team on the inaugural Class AAAA All-State squad chosen by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. They led the Patriots to their third title since 2011 and the program’s fourth overall.
Other first teamers included the duo of Carson Poffenberger and Luke Bechtel of state runner-up Morgantown, along with William Gabbert (Greenbrier East), Ben Gilliam (Woodrow Wilson), Chandler Schmidt (Cabell Midland) and Doryn Smith (Martinsburg). All are seniors except Schmidt, who’s a junior.
Yoakum averaged 20.2 points and Pinkett 17.6 as they combined for 31 of GW’s 42 double-figure scoring efforts in games this season. But points weren’t the entire story for either of the 6-foot-2 guards.
Pinkett, who was selected as the first-team captain, chipped in 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game and shot 77% on free throws while earning a reputation as one of the team’s best defenders. Yoakum, who nearly doubled his scoring average from 10.6 points as a junior, also averaged 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and shot 81% at the foul line and 40.2% on 3-pointers.
George Washington coach Rick Greene recognized the contributions Pinkett and Yoakum made on and off the floor for a program that went 17-1 and sported five underclassmen in its normal playing rotation.
“There’s no doubt,’’ Greene said, “when you start with a backcourt like that and go through a season like we just had, where the season could stall for 10 days and not even really have a preseason. I know a lot of coaches felt that way. I know I felt like we were in midseason form and that’s important in our section with the games we have, to have two senior guards who are that versatile. That was important.
“I always thought we had the best backcourt, and that’s not to be disrespectful to anyone else’s. But both could run the point and play defense and score. They were just so complete, and they complemented each other. If Mason got hot, Alex looked to him. If Alex got hot, Mason would try to find him. And they didn’t just work well with each other. They just wanted to win, and the way they played together was extremely unselfish. And it showed that they both benefited from it, and we benefited as a team.’’
GW won 36 of 42 games over the past two seasons, taking a pair of Mountain State Athletic Conference championships and earning the No. 3 seed (in 2020) and the No. 2 seed (in 2021) at the state tournament. Last year’s state tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
Morgantown, which fell to GW 47-46 on a last-second shot in the title game, was also able to sustain its status as one of the state’s top programs, going 18-2 and getting the No. 1 state tournament seed. The 6-7 Poffenberger and 6-3 Bechtel, both seniors, were as reliable as they come for the Mohigans and their balanced attack.
Poffenberger averaged 12.9 points and 4.1 rebounds and shot 77% at the foul line. In three state tournament games, he donated 43 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Bechtel averaged 12 points and five rebounds this season and shot 40% on 3-pointers. In three games at the state tournament, he had 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
“Carson and Luke are two of the most high-character guys we’ve had,’’ said Morgantown coach David Tallman. “They’re just truly great people and I’m really proud of them, especially getting through everything we got through this year with COVID, like everybody around the state. To continue to stick with us, I’m proud of them.’’
Bechtel endured not one but two ACL surgeries during his Mohigans career — one as a freshman and the other the summer before his junior season.
“He actually tweaked one of those ACLs in the last game of the regular season,’’ Tallman said, “and he gutted it out at tournament time. It was pretty amazing.’’
Here are capsule looks at the other first-team selections:
Gabbert: A transfer from GW, he helped the Spartans go 10-4 and reach the Region 4 co-finals by averaging 20.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals. He shot 47% overall, 44% on 3-pointers and 83% on free throws.
Gilliam: He played a big role as the sub-.500 Flying Eagles put on a late-season push, winning five straight to get to the state tournament. Gilliam scored 20 points as Woodrow got past South Charleston 49-43 in the regionals. He averaged 13.1 points and 13.2 rebounds and shot 59%.
Schmidt: A first-teamer for the second straight season, the junior guard led the Knights back into the state tournament by averaging 19.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals. He was a second-team selection as a freshman.
Smith: He was the leading scorer on a balanced Bulldogs team that won 15 straight and reached the state tournament semifinals before losing to eventual champ GW. Smith averaged 15.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists, shot 48% from the floor and had 30 deflections on defense.
The captain of the second team is Bryson Singer (Parkersburg). The other second-teamers include Jack Bifano (Bridgeport), Bailee Coles (Greenbrier East), Ryan Hurst (Buckhannon-Upshur), Avery Lee (Wheeling Park), Ryan Niceler (University), Amare Smith (Huntington) and Cole Sperlazza (Brooke).