By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
David vs. Goliath.
Villanova vs. Georgetown.
Capital girls vs. Greenbrier East.
What is the common denominator in each of those matchups? The underdog prevailed.
This evening at 5:30 in the Charleston Civic Center the No. 8 seeded PikeView Lady Panthers tip-off against the No. 1 seed and defending state champion Westside Renegades in the quarterfinals of the W.Va. Class AA girls basketball tournament. After 32 minutes of action PikeView hopes that their game against Westside can be added to the aforementioned battles in which the underdog was a success.
The Panthers, making their third straight appearance upstate, are led on the floor by Hope Nester and Lyndsey Hatfield, but they are not the only ladies who spark PikeView. Laura Hill, Alexis May and Courtney White round out the starting lineup, and coach Karen Miller has counted on quality minutes from Madison May, Lauren Hatfield, Crysta Meekins and Savanah Runion throughout the season. Bethany Bryant, Katelyn Shrewsbury and Katelyn Ogle have also contributed for the Lady Panthers.
PikeView enters state tournament play winners of six consecutive games. The Lady Panthers began the season in slow fashion, losing five of their first eight before winning four of the next five. Two of those early-season losses were to Westside, 74-34 in the second game of the year, and later 58-28. In the second game against the Renegades, PikeView trailed by 10 at the half before Westside pulled away.
A young team with only one senior, Hill, the Lady Panthers began to grow and improve as the season progressed. There were two victories against perennial power Summers County, including one in the regional co-final.
PikeView played six games against teams that are in Charleston for the state tourney: No. 1 AAA Spring Valley, No. 4 AAA Princeton, No. 4 AA Nicholas County twice, and No. 1 Westside twice.
Miller believes that hard schedule has helped the team improve its quality of play throughout the season.
“It really helped a whole lot,” Miller said. “You’re playing AAA schools. We did not have an easy game all season and I think that really prepared the girls and hopefully we’ll go up and give it our best shot.”
Westside heads into state play with a 23-1 record and return two of five starters from last season’s 28-0 championship team.
Center Hope Lester and guard Morgan Spolarich lead a Renegades’ team that lost its only game to Class AAA University High School.
Lester leads the way with 18 points and 12 rebounds a game. Spolarich averages nine points, seven assists and four steals a contest.
Westside head coach Jamie Lusk knows Westside will be in for a fight.
“It will be a battle. PikeView knows us and we know them,” Lusk told the Beckley Register-Herald. “They are very well coached and they play hard. They’re a very good defensive team.”
Lusk added that AAA No. 1 Greenbrier East losing to lightly regarded Capital in the regional showed that there are no sure things in the postseason.
“That game opened up a lot of eyes,” Lusk said. “You can’t fall asleep at this time of year. There are no weak teams left.”
While Lusk and the Renegades hope their fate is not similar to that of Greenbrier East last week, Miller and the Lady Panthers are hoping to do what Capital did against Greenbrier East, to Westside in the capitol city this evening.
— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline. Dan Stillwell of The Register-Herald contributed to this story.