Girls basketball: St. Albans Shootout to offer unique matchups, variety of squads
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With all the competition of the State Tournament, teams across the Mountain State travel annually to the St. Albans Girls Basketball Summer Shootout.
Forty-four teams from 39 schools, including all three reigning state champions, will participate in the 11th annual tournament to be held Tuesday and Wednesday across four locations.
"We have all three state champions from this past year coming," said Scott James, St. Albans girls basketball coach and shootout organizer. "We've got some of the strongest programs in the state. It's one of the things that makes it appealing to everybody, is the variety of teams we get from all over the state."
Included in the schedule, Class AAA Parkersburg South will play Class A Huntington St. Joseph on Tuesday in a matchup of reigning state champions.
That contest will also feature two of the state's top players in Patriots sophomore guard Taryn McCutcheon and Irish senior Mychal Johnson, a 5-foot-8 guard. McCutcheon earned Class AAA All-State first-team honors as a freshman, while Johnson, a Notre Dame commit, captained the first team squad.
It's those types of unique matchups that lure both fans to watch and coaches to attend the St. Albans tournament, James said.
"One of the things that draws a lot of people is you usually get matchups against teams you don't normally see during the regular season," he said. "I've got like East Fairmont playing Clay County, Robert C. Byrd-Sissonville, Bridgeport-Tolsia. Those are teams, all six are strong (Class) AA programs, but they don't play each other during the regular season."
The Class AA field features state champ Bridgeport, as well as runner-up Westside, which is led by 6-foot junior center Hope Lester, a Marshall commit. Lester averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds en route to her first team All-State selection.
Many teams from the Kanawha Valley will also be in attendance, including host St. Albans, Nitro, Capital, George Washington, Sissonville, Charleston Catholic, Poca, Hurricane, Winfield, South Charleston and Riverside.
Other teams attending from across the state include Class AAA schools Huntington, Parkersburg and Preston. In Class AA, North Marion, Fairmont Senior and Scott will participate as well as Class A squads Parkersburg Catholic, Pocahontas County and Gilmer County. From Ohio, Ironton will also attend.
This year, the talent's long, but it's youthful across the state, James said.
"A lot of the talent is young in this state," he said. "The sophomore class is extremely strong, the junior class is extremely strong."
The youth movement includes St. Albans, which boasts just one senior in Kaitlynn Propst one season after featuring a seniorless roster.
"We're going to be strong with KP as a senior, but then also from juniors down to freshmen," James said. "We have two or three incoming freshman this year that are going to be pushing for playing time on varsity, so we have a strong group from top to bottom."
The St. Albans summer shootout will provide James and other attending coaches an opportunity to evaluate players as they adjust to new and bigger roles.
"It's the end of the three-week period and a lot of coaches like to measure how far they've come along," James said. "They like to know what they've accomplished, what they have to work on to get prepared for the upcoming season.
"It's going to be an exciting two days."
In total, the teams will play 43 games Tuesday and 45 Wednesday.
Each team will play three games a day in round-robin format. Games will be two 18-minute halves. First-half play will operate with a running clock, with the clock stopping in the final two minutes of the second half.
Games will be held at the main gym and auxiliary building at St. Albans High School. Other games will be held at the Active Sports Complex, two blocks east of the high school, and McKinley Middle School.
Admission to attend is $3 each day and admits fans to all-day action at all four locations. Games start at 9 a.m. each day.