No one will be eliminated Friday, but dozens of boys basketball teams across West Virginia can make the road to the state tournament a lot shorter when sectional finals are contested in all three classes.
All eight Class AAA sectional finals are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, with the winning teams securing home-court advantage for Tuesday’s regional co-finals around the state. Five sectional title games are also set for Friday in AA, and six more in Class A.
The losing teams in the sectional title games are not eliminated — it’s the only step of the revamped postseason process where the loser isn’t erased — but their job becomes more difficult as they must hit the road for the one-game regionals. Regional victories send teams into the March 14-17 state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Plenty of attention in the Kanawha Valley will be focused on two games — George Washington at Capital in Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 and Winfield at Nitro in Class AA Region 4 Section 1.
GW (18-3) enters the game ranked No. 3 in the Class AAA state poll, one spot ahead of the Cougars (14-7). In their only regular-season meeting on Feb. 9, the Patriots earned a 69-62 victory at GW High School.
The GW-Capital loser will most likely be traveling to the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center on Tuesday, tasked with beating fellow state power Woodrow Wilson on its home floor. The Flying Eagles (16-6) are prohibitive favorites Friday against visiting Princeton (14-8) in the Region 3 Section 2 finals.
While Woodrow, ranked No. 7 in the AAA poll, has won four games against state-ranked teams this season, Princeton has won only four games against AAA competition — beating Greenbrier East (3-18) thrice and Riverside (5-18) once.
At Nitro, the Class AA No. 7 Wildcats (20-3) and Generals (16-7) tangle for a third time this season, having split their earlier meetings. Nitro needs one more victory to break the school record of 20 it shares with the 1941 team.
Nitro prevailed 60-55 against Winfield in their most recent meeting on Jan. 30. In that game, forward Qwailei Turner (20 points) and point guard Joel Sweat (19) combined for nearly two-thirds of the Wildcats points as Sweat was able to penetrate the Generals’ defense off the dribble. Sweat went 10 of 10 at the foul line in that game.
“It was on the back end we made mistakes at times,’’ said Chris Stephens, Winfield’s first-year coach. “We knew he was going to get down into the paint, but we didn’t help with the right guy or rotate with the right guy at times. And there at the end, when they switched the ball screens up, we knew they were switching it, but we just didn’t get through the flare screen twice, and they hit two big 3s on that.’’
Winfield chalked up a 66-60 home victory against Nitro in the first matchup on Jan. 12.
In other AAA sectional finals tonight involving Mountain State Athletic Conference teams, No. 8-ranked Huntington (15-6) and Hurricane (11-11) lock up at Cabell Midland in Region 4 Section 2, while No. 2 Parkersburg South (19-3) and Parkersburg (13-10) battle in Region 4 Section 1.
Another AA sectional championship pitting Cardinal Conference rivals finds No. 2-ranked Chapmanville (22-1), winner of 16 straight, tackling Logan (16-8) at Mingo Central. That game is set for 7:30.
The Tigers took both regular-season games between the teams, 65-46 and 52-45.