By Dave Morrison
ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket
It is nearly impossible to rank the area’s double-A schools, most which make up the area we know as Region 3.
It’s a fluid situation, changing daily, sometimes hourly, depending on the schedule.
In the past, you could pencil in Bluefield and either Wyoming County school – Westside or Wyoming East – as a virtual shoo-in to represent Region 3 in the Class AA state tournament.
They didn’t disappoint.
Bluefield has made five straight trips to Charleston, and last year it was Wyoming East, right before that Westside for three straight years.
Oak Hill made its run from 2007-2011, winning two state titles in the final two seasons – one against Wyoming East.
PikeView has made an appearance.
For the most part it’s been the old guard.
Not that other schools didn’t have an opportunity. Shady Spring had some good teams. Ditto PikeView.
Nearly year-in, year-out, it’s been the same old same old.
That could be true again this year. But, for the first time in a long time, the region is wide open.
As many as seven, potentially eight schools, have an opportunity to advance to the big dance. The region is not the power it once was, it appears the power region is now Region 4, with Poca, Chapmanville, Mingo Central and Sissonville inside AA Top 10 from that region.
True, the current No. 1 is in Region 3, Bluefield.
Bluefield is certainly the hot team in the Region ,having beaten last week two then-ranked Class AAA teams in Greenbrier East and Musselman, the latter a 76-72 victory on Friday.
Bluefield has lost one region game, to Shady Spring, is 5-1 in the region. Keep in mind, Cody Fuller (16.2 ppg. 44 3s) did not play in that game.
Shady Spring can also lay claim to being the hot team in the Region, with six straight victories, and five straight victories over regional foes, including a 56-49 victory over Bluefield. In all six games Shady has held the opponent to under 50 points. The only loss was Jan. 11 to PikeView, when it gave up 53. Shady has also beaten Wyoming East (59-37), Oak Hill (58-45), Independence (50-42) and Liberty (74-37).
Shady is 6-1 in the region overall.
Yet there is still PikeView, a team, like Bluefield and Shady Spring in section 2 of Region 3. The Panthers are the team that beat Shady Spring. But they have also lost to Bluefield twice. PikeView is 5-4 in the region, 8-4 overall.
And what about James Monroe, now 9-5 and ranked as high as 10 two weeks this season? Yes, the schedule hasn’t been what the others have played, an issue Matt Sauvage, the first-year coach, is aiming to change. The problem is inside the region, where the Mavericks are 2-4.
On the other side, Westside and Wyoming East certainly have the pedigree, though not the powers they once were.
Westside has gone cold in some games. Two examples, in the first Wyoming East-Westside rivalry game, the Renegades did not score in the first quarter, although Wyoming East managed just three points in the quarter, so that certainly wasn’t the difference. Wyoming East won that game 56-44.
A week ago, and a week after scoring 87 a two-point loss to Bluefield, the Renegades scored just 46 against Oak Hill in a 55-46 loss. A night after edging Princeton 44-43, the Renegades put up 74 to beat Logan by 10, a big victory for the team. Westside is hot and cold, a trait coach Shawn Jenkins admits is concerning.
Wyoming East certainly has one of the best 3-point shooting teams around, with 114 3s. When those 3s aren’t falling, they struggle.
Westside is 8-6, Wyoming East 7-6.
And what about Oak Hill? Until the weekend, the Red Devils were 4-0 in their section. They are now 4-1, after a 59-37 loss to Independence.
And Independence has struggled against Wyoming East, a team it hasn’t beaten in many years. This season they’ve dropped two, 63-60 and 89-85 in double overtime, a game the Patriots led by five with 12 seconds left in regulation.
Tonight’s Big Atlantic Classic at the Amory in Beckley offer’s Independence to make a statement against Poca, and Luke Frampton, the leading candidate, in my view, for state player of the year.
Poca is No. 3 in the most recent AP poll, falling from No. 1 after a weekend loss to Chapmanville.
Independence has the weaponry to make a run at the region, led by Dylan Dickens, who averages a double-double. He is a player who definitely plays bigger than his 6-foot-1 frame suggest. Tyler Haga is also one of the area’s leading scorers, but does a lot of things outside point producing. The Patriots have a good supporting cast as well. Markus Guy’s free throw routine is worth the price of admission and effective as well. Check it out at 9 p.m. at the Armory.
Poca has played one Region 3 opponent. Remember that six-game Shady win streak? It started after a 72-37 loss to the Dots.
Prior to that, Wyoming East takes on Bluefield in an intra-Region 3 matchup. The first time these two teams met in was the season opener, a 70-69 Bluefield victory.
Again, opportunities, mostly for Wyoming East.
For Wyoming East, it could be a signature win and a chance to wipe away a two-game losing streak to Princeton, the two teams, ironically, that rival Westside has beaten on its two-game win streak. Win streaks like that this season are long, making Shady Spring’s six-game streak even more impressive. If Wyoming East is hitting 3s, it could happen. More precisely, the Warriors have to hit their 3s.
For Bluefield, it is about keeping that momentum going, and they do want a shot to play Poca, in what could be a No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup on Saturday at 2 p.m.
For Independence and Wyoming East, they want to spoil that party, and make that No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup a consolation game. After this season we’ve seen so far, it would be apropos, if not unlikely.
Certainly Region 3 is not where it was at in the past. Between 1992-2014 teams that would make up Region 3 now played in 20 of 23 state title games. Between 2005-2014 10 straight, winning six – Bluefield (13-14), Oak Hill (10-11) and Wyoming East (07-08) going back-to-back. In 2010, section foes Oak Hill and Wyoming East met in the title game. In that 10-year span Bluefield and Wyoming East have played in four title game, Oak Hill two and Westside one. The only years where a Region 3 team was not in the title game came in 2004, 2001 and 1998.
That doesn’t make it any less open.
It’s wide open.