Boys basketball: Tournament to prepare Bison for postseason run
BUFFALO, W.Va. — The best test for success comes from intense, stressful situations that prepare athletes to make correct decisions when later presented with similar scenarios in the clutch.
With that mindset in tow, Buffalo Coach Chuck Elkins thinks the West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament will condition the Bison for a postseason run. Buffalo, ranked sixth in Class A, opens the tournament to play host to Fayetteville (1-10) at 7:30 p.m. today.
"It's a pressure situation, and any time you play in a pressure situation, you have to get better," Elkins said of the tournament.
Buffalo (12-1) enters as the defending WVHIT champ and earned the tournament's South Division No. 1 seed with a 63-54 victory against Valley (Fayette) on Friday.
The third-annual tournament features 24 Class A public schools competing for large- and small-division state championships.
Buffalo junior Laythen Good said the Bison understand the benefit of such a midseason tournament.
"It gets us prepared for the state championship, plus no team has come into this back-to-back, so we want to be the first team," he said.
"It would also give us a big momentum boost. We'll see different teams, better teams, hopefully get us more prepared."
The preparation is certainly not lost on Levi Jordan, who leads a senior class that has not reached the State Tournament.
"Personally, I've never been to the State Tournament yet, but it's high hopes to kind of get what the atmosphere is like there, and hopefully we can win it," Jordan said.
The State Tournament is still far from Elkins' mind, however. "We don't even talk about that," he said. "That's at the end of the season. If we play two good games (in the regional tournament), we'll make it. We don't play two good games, we'll go home."
The Bison don't talk about that, Elkins said, because there's plenty of room to grow in the meantime.
"Right now, what we're working on is the mental toughness to finish at the end, to keep pushing, to keep going," he said. "They're not always going to be blow-outs. You have to play every minute of every game. Every possession counts, and keep pushing. That's what we're going to work on."
To develop that mental fortitude, the WVHIT presents a great starting point.
To reach the tournament's championship, Buffalo would potentially face No. 8 Valley again or 10th-ranked Greenbrier West before meeting the North Division winner. The North Division features among its teams: No. 6 St. Marys, Tygarts Valley, Clay-Battelle and last year's WVHIT runner-up East Hardy.
"We don't have to play all of them, but it's something our kids really look forward to," Elkins said.
As the No. 1 seed, Buffalo will play three home games before play finishes Feb. 9 at Summersville Arena.
To assert Buffalo enters the tournament without experience, though, wouldn't be true. The team returned 13 members from its regional runner-up squad.
The team's last two losses were both to Charleston Catholic — in last season's regional championship and a seven- point defeat this season.
Even at 11-1, Good said the team's ready to grow and improve.
"We're not where we should be, but we're slowly climbing," he said, "and hopefully as long as we keep climbing, keep playing games going deeper in the season we'll finally get that No. 1 spot."
If the Bison reach that mark, there's little doubt Buffalo's play and lessons learned from the WVHIT will be a big factor.