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Prep basketball: Big 10-Cardinal Conference Challenge Set

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - What began in an offhand conversation about bringing the state's athletic programs closer together has resulted in a concrete schedule for nine games of high school basketball that will feature a total of seven 2013 State Tournament participants.

Poca boys basketball Coach Allen Osborne confirmed Thursday night that a schedule of games had been finalized that will comprise the inaugural Big 10-Cardinal Conference Challenge. The games will take place Dec. 20-21 at the Charleston Civic Center.

"I think it's a good idea, and hopefully it'll help out the FCA, which I think is a good organization," Osborne said.

The games, which will begin Friday night and continue with an all-day affair on Saturday, will serve as the final pairings for the annual Hoops Classic. The Classic is sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, in which Osborne and Robert C. Byrd Coach Bill Bennett are also involved.

Poca and Byrd will face off in the final game of the event, scheduled for 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 21.

Osborne said the coaches of each conference seeded their league rosters to determine the pairings.

"We got the top seed for the Cardinal. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing," Osborne said with a laugh. "This is going to be a challenge, but I think there's going to be some good games."

Byrd reached the Class AA State Tournament semifinals and gave Bluefield a challenge until the Eagles lost their shooting touch in the second half. Bluefield went on to win the game and claim the state championship the next day by defeating another Big 10 school, Fairmont Senior.

"I think our coaches are excited to be part of this event," Bennett said. "It was a pleasure to work with Allen to try to make it all happen."

Fairmont Senior received the No. 2 seed for the Challenge, and will face Cardinal No. 2 Scott at approximately 6:45 p.m. on Saturday.

The event begins at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20, when Big 10 No. 9 seed Liberty (Harrison) takes on non-Cardinal Conference school Charleston Catholic. The Irish finished as the Class A runner-up to state champion Tug Valley in last week's State Tournament.

The Cardinal Conference has eight members. The Big 10 is a 13-school league that includes nine Class AA schools. Class AAA schools Elkins, Preston, Buckhannon-Upshur and Lewis County are also in the league.

"We had an odd number and Liberty wanted to be a part of it so we got them a game with Catholic to fill it out," Osborne said.

Saturday's games will begin at 9 a.m., with No. 8 seeds Tolsia and Lincoln squaring off. Following the opener, No. 3 seeds Mingo Central and Bridgeport tip off at approximately 10:45 a.m., with No. 4 seeds Chapmanville and North Marion playing at 12:15 p.m.

No. 5 seed Sissonville will play East Fairmont at 1:45, followed by games between No. 6 seeds Herbert Hoover and Grafton and No. 7 seeds Wayne and Philip Barbour.

"Grafton and Philip Barbour are playing in another tournament on Thursday and Friday of that week, so they asked if they can be scheduled later in the day," Osborne said.

The idea for the event began with conversations between Osborne and Bennett late last summer. The leagues had originally scheduled a Dec. 14 date for the challenge, but had to push it back one week. The cheerleading State Tournament had already been scheduled to take place at the Civic Center on the challenge's original date.  

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.taylor@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT 


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