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Girls basketball: Third time in title game, GW finally gets neutral court

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If third time is a charm, it'll happen on a neutral court.

George Washington (12-8) gets the opportunity to wipe away some memories when it faces Huntington (17-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Mountain State Athletic Conference girls basketball championship.

This is the third time in four years the Patriots have captured the East Division title and a spot in the title game.

George Washington lost its previous two MSAC title games to South Charleston in what amounted to home games for the Black Eagles.

Both games were played at the South Charleston Community Center, which is the site again for Saturday's championship.

"It will be nice to play on a truly neutral court this time," GW Coach Jamie LaMaster said.

He's hoping that a neutral site will yield a better result against Huntington. The Highlanders broke open a close game in the second half and beat the Patriots on their home court, 69-50, on Jan. 9.

"I don't think we played particularly well that game," LaMaster said. "We've been looking better lately."

He said the key has been limiting turnovers.

"And we're more confident in our offense," LaMaster said. "It's taken longer for that to happen than I wanted it to."

Last Saturday's 61-56 win over visiting Princeton following a last-second loss at top ranked Greenbrier East have provided a confidence boost.

"Our schedule at the end is pretty brutal," LaMaster said before his team left to play at Parkersburg South on Monday night. "It should have us well prepared."

He does not mind facing Huntington again.

"I'm looking forward to a rematch with them," LaMaster said. "We've got to limit our turnovers and control the tempo."

In the last meeting between the squads, the Highlanders switched to a man-to-man defense in the second half and pretty much shut down the Patriots' attack.

LaMaster said he does not see that happening again.

"We've seen a lot of man (-to-man) lately," he said. "We're doing better against it."

The Patriots have made late season runs to advance to the state tournament the last two seasons. He hopes that is true again this year.

"It's not so much about Xs and Os now," LaMaster said. "Now it is who is going to play harder for 32 minutes."

Parkersburg and Spring Valley play in the third-fourth place playoff game at 2 p.m. Saturday. The rest of the position games for the girls will be held Thursday.

* * *

THIS IS the 11th Annual Night of Champions for the Mountain State Athletic Conference and it has been held at three different venues.

The first was held on Feb. 22, 2003, at the Charleston Civic Center.

That first championship game that night featured Alexis Hornbuckle and Renee Montgomery-led South Charleston against Megan Withrow and Nitro.

The Black Eagles won that game, which drew close to 6,000 fans. Almost half of the crowd left after the girls' game and before the traditionally better attended boys title game.

The next year the NOC was moved to now demolished Memorial Fieldhouse in Huntington with Nitro and South Charleston meeting once again.

That time Nitro won 72-59 in front of 4,500 fans.

The NOC stayed in Huntington in 2006 before beginning returning to the Civic Center for two more years in 2007 and '08.

Since 2009 it has been played in the 1,700-seat South Charleston Community Center.

* * *

THE KANAWHA Valley's leading scorer, Buffalo junior Chelsey Parkins, surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career last week in a 60-43 win over Teays Valley Christian.

Parkins, an All-State infielder who also stood out for the Bison in the pitching circle during their 2011 and 2012 Class A state championship seasons, averages 19.4 points per game. Buffalo (15-4) played at Sherman on Monday night.

Parkins' boyfriend, senior Levi Jordan, reached the 1,000-point plateau a night later with the boys team, as he poured in 29 points in a win over Valley in the Hometown Invitational Tournament semifinals. 


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