Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

December 12, 2013

Get your basketball tab, the season is now underway

BLUEFIELD — Other than for the folks in Giles County and the surrounding areas, attention on the high school sports scene has turned to basketball.

Giles will attempt to compete a perfect 15-0 football season on Saturday by playing Brunswick for the 2A state championship in Salem. While the Spartans have won 14 in a row, the Bulldogs have claimed 12 straight victories.

No one has stopped the single wing all season, and here is thinking the Bulldogs won't be do it either. Go Spartans, bring home a fourth state championship to football-crazed Pearisburg.

As for the rest of the ever-growing Daily Telegraph coverage area, basketball is on the mind.

It has already started in Virginia, and for the girls in West Virginia, and will tip off locally tonight for the boys in the Mountain State, with defending Class AA state champion Bluefield traveling to Princeton. The Beavers finished 25-3 last season, but two of their defeats came again those same Tigers.

Doing it again might be difficult with the Tigers losing at least eight productive seniors, and Beavers will have all five starters back, with hopes of a repeat.

There is little doubt that Bluefield's quest for back-to-back titles — which the Beavers did in 1995-96 — will dominate the headlines in the upcoming season. There are, however, plenty of other teams will high expectations on the horizon.

On the boys side, Graham advanced to the 2A state quarterfinals last season, and return four talented ballers from that 17-10 club that will take its 1-1 record into Friday night's home contest with Tazewell. There are no longer district tournaments in Virginia so, much like the West Virginia schools that prepare all season for sectionals, the G-Men and the rest will be focusing on being ready for conference play.

There were other teams playing late into the season last year, including Bland County, which reached the 1A state quarterfinals losing to J.I. Burton a basket at the buzzer. The four seniors, and three 1,000-point scorers that had been together for four seasons, are all gone.

Wyoming East also had another stellar season, falling a game short of reaching the Class AA state tournament.

As for the girls, Richlands has made two straight visits to Richmond for the Division 3 state semifinals, and will try to return this season in the 2A bracket. The Lady Blues did lose plenty of firepower, but Radford signee Brittany Allen is back, so that bodes well for the Lady Blues.

Princeton and PikeView also advanced to the state tournament last season, with both clubs losing in the state quarterfinals.

While the Princeton boys lost most of its production to graduation, so did the Tigerettes, including Marshall freshman McKenzie Akers, along with 32-year head coach Debbie Ball. Tesla Akers has returned to Princeton after an All-America career at Ferrum, and has a rebuilding task ahead.

PikeView lost just one senior, and still has high hopes for the upcoming season, but the Panthers did lose Hope Nester for the season with a knee injury. There is still Hope, just not in the form of one of the state's best point guards.

That is just a brief look at the season ahead on the hardwood. For much more, check out the BDTBounce basketball publication that is included with today's edition of the Daily Telegraph.

What awaits is a 48-page tabloid that includes team previews, rosters, schedules and photos for the upcoming season. It includes boys and girls team from 23 schools and 44 different teams, 23 boys and 21 girls.

Unfortunately, Mercer Christian, which once had the most dominating Class A girls program in West Virginia, doesn't have a team this season. Also, the Summers County boys preview will be in the today's regular edition after the coach couldn't be tracked down in time to get his story in publication.

The Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year award will also return for a 13th straight year this season,

with 11 boys and girls honored each week, and a player and coach of the year to follow. The girls start a week early with the first

winner being Grundy senior standout Morgan Hall. Many more await their turn.

Coaches are urged to recommend winners for the award. Just provide us with statistics and any other information from the previous week — Monday through Saturday games — to help in the decision. Too often, much like in football, little input is received so the selection process comes down to compiling statistics out of the paper and going from there.

Another perk for basketball fans is the bdtbounce.com website that will be ready for use soon. I just finally got all the rosters, schedules and photos together to be sent to the folks that set it up for us. There needs to be a few more hours in the day to get everything done this time of the year.

Some of us have tried to make it so, working late — in Tom Bone's case since he had the task of putting the pages together — really, really late into the morning to get the basketball section ready to be printed and sent out to the masses.

While football is the undisputed king of area sports, as it is just about everywhere, basketball is a close second.

This is the third year the Daily Telegraph has done a basketball tab since I arrived in 2005.

The football tab is a tall task each August, with trying to juggle football features and previews, along with Appalachian League baseball and other sports such as soccer, volleyball, golf and cross country that don't get as much publicity, but deserve just as much as all the other sports, but time and manpower is limited.

Getting the basketball tab together is even more difficult. Practice begins as football gets into playoff mode, and trying to get coaches together for two teams at one school can be a case in frustration. Then add the week of Thanksgiving when the schedules change for the holiday and it means crashing hard the last week and final few days just to get the interviews and photos taken.

Getting it all ready to even get put into a special section is a whole other story. We have had the plenty of help from our own staff and plenty of correspondents and photographers who helped get all the information together.

Now comes the fun part. I am often asked about Friday nights during football season and how difficult it must be, and it is.

Basketball is even more taxing. It happens six days a week, there are 40-plus teams wanting their games covered, and we can only do so much. That is why we urged coaches to call in results as soon as games are over because we also don't have the late deadline that we do on Friday nights.

Please call as early as possible to get these games in. That also goes for the multitude of middle school calls that we get. I have often said that high school teams might not always call in every result, but the middle schools never, ever miss a opportunity to report a game.

Take some time and check out the basketball tab, and use it as a reference throughout the season. Don't forget to click on bdtbounce.com too, which should be ready soon. It will have team and players photos, schedules, results, features, photos, videos and much more.

Enjoy the season ahead. There are games practically every night of the week outside of Sunday in the region. Check out some games.

There are too many gyms in the area that have numerous fans disguised as empty seats. Get out and watch some basketball. It might be cold outside, but it will be toasty inside, and you get to be entertained with hoops at the same time.

Sounds good to me.

— Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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