A memo to those pacing the floor with worry about the supposed demise of quality high school girls basketball in West Virginia.
Relax. It's in good hands.
While a record-low number of Kanawha Valley teams qualified for the State Tournament in 2013, the sport is flourishing outside the confines of Kanawha and Putnam counties. In fact, if the All-Tournament teams selected after Parkersburg South, Bridgeport and St. Joseph won state championships Saturday are any indicator, the sport should get stronger in the next two-to-three years.
Of the 24 players named - eight in each class - to the All-Tournament teams, eight were sophomores and four were freshmen.
"It just makes me want to work harder and get back here next year, to be in the same spot and the same game, but just come out with a win next year," Westside sophomore center Hope Lester said after the 2012 Class AA champion Renegades (25-2) were dethroned by Bridgeport (25-2) on Saturday.
Lester was remarkably composed after Westside's loss. She finished the tournament with 54 points and 31 rebounds, but was held to 5-of-16 shooting in the title game by undersized Bridgeport sophomore pivot Hannah Fetty.
Lester had made 17-of-26 shot attempts in Westside's preliminary round wins. She and Fetty - a 5-7 forward charged with the task of playing center after the Indians lost 6-foot junior center Raina Young to an injury last month - were named to the Class AA All-Tournament squad.
In Class AAA, the tenacity of Parkersburg South freshman point guard Taryn McCutcheon left one of the tournament's most lasting impressions on spectators and opposing players.
"I didn't guard her, but I had to help on her and she was tough," Logan (17-10) sophomore guard Shayna Gore said after South (20-7) beat the Wildcats 58-34 in the Class AAA title game.
"I've never seen anyone play that fast before," Gore said.
Another underclassman, Spring Valley point guard Sarah Kelly, joined McCutcheon and Gore on the All-Tournament team. A triple-double waiting to happen, Kelly had the first such stat line to involve steals in tournament history during the first round.
Each of the aforementioned Class AAA guards found their way to the All-Tournament team, as did Spring Valley sophomore forward Madison Morris, Logan freshman center Monica Mitchell and Parkersburg South sophomore guard Keya Bartlett, who broke the record for 3-pointers in a tournament with 14.
Bartlett made seven of 3s in the title game.
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CAPITAL LOST to Spring Valley (23-4) in the Class AAA quarterfinals last Wednesday, and was the only Kanawha Valley entrant into the State Tournament. It was just the second time since the tournament went to an eight-school, three-class format in 1984 that only one area school qualified. The other occurred in 1997, when George Washington fell to Fairmont Senior in the Class AAA championship game.
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