By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
They came into the Armory as silent as a church mice and began stretching, pulling their hair into ponytails and embracing their game faces.
The PikeView Lady Panthers are headed to the state tournament for the third consecutive season and this group of young ladies are determined to represent their school on West Virginia’s largest basketball stage.
“We’re healthy, ready to go,” said PikeView head girls coach Karen Miller. “Any time you are one of the eight teams to make it upstate you have to be excited and our school, the community, everybody is behind the girls.”
The task, however, is tall as PikeView, seeded No. 8 must take on No. 1 Westside, Thursday evening at the Charleston Civic Center. The winner advances to Friday night’s semifinal game.
Head coach Karen Miller, her assistants and the team bussed over to Brushfork, Tuesday, to have an opportunity to practice on the larger court as is in the Civic Center, and on baskets that are not suspended from the wall or ceilings as shooting backgrounds differ on those baskets.
PikeView enters the state quarterfinal game with a record of 14-10 and winners of their last six games. The Lady Panthers played a tough schedule as eight of their 21 regular season games were against Class AAA opponents. They also faced Westside twice, Summers County three times and Scott a pair of times.
Miller believes the tough schedule has helped prepare the team for a tournament run.
“I think it really helped us a whole lot,” Miller said. “You play AAA schools. We didn’t have the easy games all season and I think it really prepares the team. Hopefully we will go up and give it our best shot.”
PikeView hopes the contest Thursday is nothing like the two games against Westside in the regular season. In the second game of the year, Westside, the defending Class AA champions, defeated the Lady Panthers 74-34.
In the rematch at PikeView on Jan. 15, the Renegades won 58-28. But the Panthers, a team with only one senior, was still learning to play together and the Lady Panthers expect to see a difference the third time around.
Laura Hill is the lone senior on the team and she is excited to make her third trip to the state tournament and take on the top seeded team.
“It’s definitely exciting to go back to states my senior year,” Hill said. “We’ve been my sophomore and junior years and I would like to go out with a bang at state.
“Against Westside, we are really going to have to shut down their post, shut down their shooters, have lots of communication, lots of teamwork.”
The post player Hill speaks of is 6-foot-3 Hope Lester, a sophomore who led the Renegades to the state championship last season.
Lyndsey Hatfield talked about what PikeView has to do against Westside.
“We have to limit our turnovers more than anything else,” Hatfield said. “I was watching film today and turnovers killed us in our last two games (against Westside). We have jelled since the last time we played them. We became more of a team and played more as a team.”
Miller expanded on what the Lady Panthers must do.
“It’s a pretty hard task. They have guards who can shoot, probably one of the best posts in the state, it’s going to be a tough task but we’re going to do whatever we can do. We’ve got to cut our turnovers down, take care of the ball and play our tenacious defense. If we do that, we’ll be fine. We can’t have a lot of turnovers.”
Defense. That’s the name of the game for the PikeView ladies.
“Our defense is definitely our best asset,” Hill said. “We’re a very athletic team. We’re fast. We communicate well. Our chemistry has increased. We are a much better team than we were (against Westside). We are excited and are going to do what we can to take out the No. 1.”
Westside enters state tournament play with a 23-1 record, losing only to Class AAA University who finished the regular season with an 18-6 record.
Miller concurs that the PikeView team has grown as the season progressed.
“It really speaks to how hard these girls have worked this season to come together,” Miller said. “At the beginning of the season we weren’t shooting well, weren’t playing well, and for them to come together as a team, to work hard to get this opportunity, it’s awesome.”
PikeView and Westside open the evening session of Thursday’s action at the Charleston Civic Center, with tip-off at 5:30 p.m..
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com