By LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHMOND, Va. —
A number of area teams have made appearances at the state tournament over the years.
Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center will have more of a southwest Virginia flavor today, however, than any previous state tourney has ever had, or at least in the final round.
Honaker squares off against Chilhowie in the girls Group 1A state championship game at noon today. At 6:30 p.m. Gate City and Central-Wise will play for the Group 2A title.
Both games are rematches of regional finals.
Honaker defeated Chilhowie, 50-43 in the 1A West Region title game two weeks ago.
Today’s winner will earn the first state championship in program history.
Chilhowie (25-2) is led by 5-foot-10 senior Danielle Catron and 6-3 sophomore Kenzie Sabo. A Concord signee, Catron averages 23 points per game, while Sabo averages 12 rebounds per contest.
Honaker (22-6) relies on balance. Six-foot junior post Laken Robinette averages a double-double, while any of her teammates is capable of leading the Lady Tigers in scoring on a given night.
“That’s been good for us,” Honaker coach Misty Davis Miller said. “A lot of our strength is Robinette inside, but we also have several good shooters who have done a really good job. Being balanced makes it harder for opposing teams be able to key on just one or two of our players.”
Defense was the key to Honaker’s 55-35 win over Colonial Beach in last week’s state semifinals and in its 40-30 win over Chilhowie in the regional finals.
“Defense is a key for us in every game, not only against Chilhowie,” Miller said. “Defense is something that is always a constant. We can always improve it and be more aggressive.”
The Lady Tigers, who ended the Warriors’ 22-game winning streak, made the versatile Catron work extremely hard to score 20 of her club’s 30 points in the regional final and they held Sabo scoreless.
That wasn’t be an easy task the first time and it won’t be any easier on Saturday.
“We’re looking at a couple of other options defensively for (today),” Miller explained. “Danielle Catron is a great offensive player.
“She does a good job getting herself to the basket. We have to keep her penetration down. That’s a big key for us defensively and we have to respect Sabo’s size inside, that’s for sure.”
Gate City and Central-Wise have played four times this season and Gate City won all four.
Just before the state semifinals Miller, Chilhowie coach Mark Halsey, Gate City coach Kelly Houseright and Central coach Robin Dotson discussed the potential for all of them to play in the state finals on the same day.
“I spoke with coach Dotson, coach Houseright and coach Halsey and we all said it would be amazing for all four of us to be representing the whole state playing for a state title,” said Miller, who played on Honaker’s 1996 state semifinal team.
“I think it says a lot about southwest Virginia and the caliber play that we have here and the athletes that we have in this part of the state.”
The last time two far southwest Virginia girls teams met in the state finals was in 2000, when Appalachia defeated J.J. Kelly. The last time two area boys teams met in the finals was way back in 1953, when Marion defeated Clintwood to win the old Group II title. Clintwood defeated Graham in the 1950 title game.