Column by BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Another high school basketball season has come to an end, and what a season it was.
There was team success and plenty of individual performances that will be remembered for years to come.
While the Bluefield Beavers brought home the biggest prize, the West Virginia Class AA state crown, several schools in the region also made runs to state tournaments.
For the first time in 22 years, the Bland County boys reached the Group A (Division 1) state tourney, and were a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the quarterfinals away from a trip to Richmond. Graham reached the same level, but a red-hot Tony Hood and the G-Men couldn’t stop eventual Division 2 state runner-up Gate City.
As for the girls, Richlands reached the Division 3 semifinals for a second straight year and fell short against runner-up Brunswick, while Princeton (AAA) and PikeView (AA) each played one game at the state level in Charleston.
And, don’t forget Pipestem Christian, with the boys claiming the WVCEA state championship.
While the Beavers will be honored with a celebration on Tuesday afternoon in Bluefield, it will be individual success that will be recognized later that night as the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year banquet will be held at the Princeton Elks Lodge, with the usual delicious dinner being served at 6 p.m.
That will be followed by an awards ceremony, with 22 talented players receiving their hardware for having been a player of the week during the season. A boys and girls player of the year will also be announced, along with a coach of the year from each gender.
The choices, as always, were difficult again this season. It really is a collection of the best players in the region, but not all of them. There are many more than just 11 boys and 11 girls that deserved attention, but the season is only so long and there can only be one winner per week.
Eleven of the 22 recipients are seniors, the other 11 will be back, including four sophomores and a freshman, so the future appears to be bright for area basketball.
How difficult was it to pick the player of the year? Check out some of these numbers from the candidates this season to be the best performer among the boys.
*Asher Dillow, Bland County: Mountain Empire District player of the year, Region C first team, 529 points (22.0 ppg) 82 3s, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 2.3 assists.
*Noah Walker, Tazewell: Southwest District first team, Region IV first team, 18.3 points, 15.4 rebounds, 4.5 blocked shots.
*Ryan Meadows, Princeton: All-Class AAA first team, MSAC first team, 21.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists.
*Tony Hood, Graham: MED first team, 13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 steals, 22 blocked shots
*Lykel Collier, Bluefield: All-Class AA first team, Coalfield Conference first team, 13.3 ppg, 8.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0 steals.
*Anthony Eades, Bluefield: All-Class AA first team, Coalfield Conference first team, 522 points (19.3 ppg), 39 3s, 10 blocked shots, 87.4 free throw percentage.
*Colby Hill, Graham: MED first team, Region C second team, 485 points (17.3 ppg), 4.8 rebounds, 49 assists, 49 steals, 19 blocked shots.
*Logan Cantrell, Twin Valley: Black Diamond District first team, 18.1 points per game, which led the talent-laden league.
*Hunter Walters, Princeton: All-Class AAA special honorable mention, MSAC honorable mention, 12 points, 10.4 rebounds a game.
*Maurice Brown, Mount View: All-Class AA honorable mention, 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals.
*Jason Weitzel, PikeView: All-Class AA honorable mention, 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.2 steals, 13 blocked shots.
Whew. Picking one winner from that collection of talent can be a tall task. Yet, here are 11 more players who were very deserving, and there are more where they came from.
How about Michael Yost (Bluefield), Chase Hankins and Darryl Clark (Bland County), Ta’Ron Ayers and T.J. Smith (Summers County), Austin Peyton and Aleks Lane (Pipestem Christian), Tyree Baker (River View), Jalen Jordan (Tazewell), Brett Bowling (Wyoming East) and Jacob McKlarney (James Monroe).
How about an all-star game with those two teams playing each other? That could be fun.
Picking the top area girls player is just as difficult. Take a look at these candidates.
*Emaleigh Gallinger, Graham: MED second team, just a freshman, 9.5 points, 2.1 steals, 2.0 rebounds.
*Taylor Catron, Tazewell: SWD first team, 14.0 points, 4.5 steals, 4.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds.
*McKenzie Akers, Princeton: All-Class AAA first team captain, MSAC player of the year, Marshall signee, 24.8 ppg, 5.3 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.7 rebounds. Girls school record with 1,796 points.
*Shelia Hopkins, Bluefield: Contributed around 10.0 points a game for the Beavers, which finished one game short of the girls state tournament
*Brittany Allen, Richlands: All-Group AA first team (VHSCA), SWD player of the year, Region IV first team, 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 79 percent from free throw line.
*Lyndsey Hatfield, PikeView: All-Class AA third team, 12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals.
*Kelsie Mann, James Monroe: All-Class AA honorable mention, 10.6 points and 11.3 rebounds.
*Miranda Kendrick, Montcalm: All-Class A honorable mention, 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.8 assists.
*Jamie Brown, Mercer Christian: All-WVCEA first team, 496 points (27.5 ppg), 6.5 steals, 4.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
*Morgan Hall, Grundy: BDD first team, Region D first team, 17.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 50 steals and 25 blocked shots.
Once again, whew. Just look at 11 more players who could have been winners, and there are many more that won’t get mentioned here.
How about Hope Nester (PikeView), Cassidy Richardson (Richlands), Marissa Mullins and Hannah Preservati (Princeton), Destiney Sims (Bluefield), Loni Webb (Grundy), Jordan Page (James Monroe), Jordan Younger (Mount View), Tiffany Perdue (Narrows), Tyra Wynes (Summers County) and Katelyn Jackson (Twin Valley).
Once again, an all-star game between those teams would be fun to watch.
No wonder high school basketball in the region continues to improve, and it’s not just the players.
Don’t forget about the coaches. This is the fifth straight year that a top coach has been honored for the boys and girls, and it doesn’t get any easier than picking the players.
Just look at some of the candidates.
For the girls, how about Debbie Ball (Princeton), Dennis Palmer (Richlands), Craig Plymal (Grundy) , Karen Miller (PikeView), Tracy Raban (Graham), Tony Mallamaci (Bluefield) and Yvonne Brown (Mount View).
As for the boys, Glynn Carlock Jr. (Graham), Buster Large (Bluefield), Gary Brown (Mount View), Ernie Gilliard (Princeton), Rich Hankins (Bland County), Kevin Worley (Pipestem Christian) and special mention to James Payne of Summers County, who has retired after 26 years on the sidelines.
There have been plenty of talented players and coaches honored in the post. For a list, check out the agate page in this edition of the Daily Telegraph.
The decisions don’t end with Tuesday’s banquet either. My next task is trying to select an All-Four Seasons County team, something I started when I arrived all those years ago.
Look for that team on Thursday, which just happens to be my birthday.
I think I will take that day off so I can watch the snow melt.
Who says it is time for spring sports.
Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.