A Look at the New Classifications

On Thursday, the WVSSAC released the new classifications that will take effect in the 2016-17 school year and run through 2019-20. From the very first glance, high school sports fans throughout the state realized that the landscape has changed drastically in all three classes.

The biggest catalyst for that shifting landscape is the decision to make the cut line between AAA and AA much higher than it has been in previous years. Class AAA was cut off with Ripley at 933 students, and Lincoln County is the largest AA with 871 students.

When the current classifications were determined, Point Pleasant was the largest AAA with 782 students, about 150 less than the new cutoff. The largest AA school for the current class was Berkeley Springs at 777, almost 100 less than the current largest AA.

Because of this cutoff, AAA will shrink from 38 to 29 schools, while AA will expand to 44 schools and Class A to 54 schools. This is a much more substantial shakeup than we usually see in reclassification.

The nine smallest schools from the current AAA class will drop down to AA: Lincoln County, Oak Hill, Elkins, Shady Spring, Logan, Winfield, Nitro, Lewis County, and Point Pleasant. There are also five teams that will drop from AA down to A: Summers County, Tolsia, Mount View, Ritchie County, Webster County, and Ravenswood. The only team in the state to move up a classification will be Man, who moves from A up to AA.

I have some observations on this, many of which pertain specifically to basketball:

-If I could ask the WVSSAC one question regarding this, it would be: Why choose to make AAA smaller, and, specifically, why now? (Ok, maybe that’s two questions, or at least a two-part question.) I’ve heard SSAC representatives in the past talk about choosing where “natural breaks” in the numbers occur and splitting the classes there. Without a doubt, there is a big gap (62 students) between Ripley and Lincoln County where AAA and AA are split. But there is also a big gap (31 students) between Fairmont Senior (811) and Robert C. Byrd (780), which is much bigger than the 5-student gap where the split was made in the current classification. If the split was made here, there would be 35 schools in AAA, much closer to the traditional number of schools in the class. Furthermore, the gap between Ripley and Lincoln County was even larger last time around at 85 students. Why did they not choose to make the split there last time?

-The first point isn’t necessarily a criticism, but just something that legitimately interests me. In fact, I think an argument can be made that this reclassification will be a little fairer than it has been in a long time. I’m not necessarily sure I agree with that, but I’ll make the case. Here goes:

The biggest gap in enrollment is in AAA, where Cabell Midland comes in with 1,965 students, roughly 1,000 students larger than Ripley, the smallest in the class. The smaller you can make the gap in each class, the fairer the competition in each class. Lowering the gap from roughly 1,100 students to a little over 1,000 helps. The gap in AA is not significantly larger now, at about 400 students from Lincoln County at 871 to Man at 460. The gap in “A” is smaller than that, with the largest school (Ravenswood) having 433 students. So it’s not perfect, but the gaps in each class are a little better than they would have been. I’m willing to wait and see how this plays out.

(I think this is actually a better argument for four classes, but I don’t think there’s much of a chance at all of that happening.)

-The southern coalfields are now almost entirely AA schools. Just going down Corridor G from Charleston you have Lincoln County, Scott, Chapmanville, Logan, Man, and Mingo Central. Oak Hill and Shady Spring are back down to AA as well, and only Tolsia and Mount View dropped to A from that region. Only Woodrow Wilson, Princeton, and Greenbrier East remain as AAA schools.

-Similarly, North Central WV is now AA territory. Buckhannon-Upshur is now pretty much all alone as a AAA school in the middle of the state.

-This doesn’t feel permanent to me. Perhaps the SSAC will decide to keep this format moving forward with a significantly smaller AAA class than AA and A, but I feel like there will be quite a bit of shakeup in schedules and conferences just to have much of that reversed in four years.

-Speaking of conferences, not much will be more interesting to me than what the Cardinal Conference decides to do. Tolsia will likely be out now that they are back down to Class A, which will put the membership at 7. There are as many as six schools that logically could be looking to join (or re-join) the Cardinal after moving to AA: Logan, Point Pleasant, Winfield, Nitro, Man, Lincoln County. How many of those teams would truly want to join? How big would the Cardinal want to get? What happens in four years if some of these schools are back to AAA or A? This will be very interesting to monitor.

-I don’t know how AA basketball will be anything but amazing the next four years. Some of the major programs in the last 15 years are now back in AA, such as Logan, Winfield, and Oak Hill. In addition to that, none of the new major players, like Robert C. Byrd, Fairmont Senior, and Bridgeport, will be moving back up. (Ok, I know Bridgeport has been a major player in AA before the last few years. You know what I mean, though.) Tug Valley and Ravenswood will be in A, but Mingo Central is a young AA school that’s building a program, and Chapmanville and Scott have turned into major players in that region as well. Add that to mainstays like Bluefield, Wyoming East, Westside, and Poca, and AA is absolutely stacked for the next four years. I love nothing more than AA basketball, and it’s going to be great.

-If the current postseason format stays the same, some AAA teams will receive a bye to a regional final. With only 29 teams in the class, there will be at least three of the eight sections that have only three schools. The top seed would presumably receive a bye and host the sectional championship (if not on a neutral court). Even if that team loses the sectional championship, they would still advance to a regional final. This also means that in the postseason, a team could lose one game, then win one and still advance to the state tournament. I don’t think I like that.

Speaking of regions and alignment, let’s take a quick look at some of those:

In AAA, I think the sections are pretty cut and dry. The bigger question might be which sections get paired with which to form the regions.

The Eastern Panhandle will likely now be its own region. It’s just a matter of how the region is split. Hampshire will likely be in a section either with two Berkeley County schools or the two Jefferson County schools. This will probably be a 7 team region.

I think Buckhannon-Upshur will join Preston, Morgantown, and University in a section. The other section in that region will likely be Brooke, Wheeling Park, and John Marshall.

Logically, Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, and Ripley would form another section. They could join with a section of Huntington, Hurricane, Spring Valley, and Cabell Midland, or they could possibly join with a section of Capital, George Washington, South Charleston, and St. Albans. The other section would likely be Princeton, Greenbrier East, Woodrow Wilson, and Riverside. Those are the most logical sections to me. We’ll see how that shakes out.

My best guess:

R1 S1: Brooke, Wheeling Park, John Marshall

R1 S2: Buckhannon-Upshur, Morgantown, University Preston


R2: Hampshire, Washington, Jefferson, Martinsburg, Hedgesville, Musselman, Spring Mills


R3 S1: Greenbrier East, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson, Riverside

R3 S2: South Charleston, George Washington, Capital, St. Albans


R4 S1: Huntington, Hurricane, Cabell Midland, Spring Valley

R4 S2: Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, Ripley


In AA, the picture isn’t quite as clear. There will be just too many teams in the geographical area that now makes up Regions 3 and 4. I’m not sure how the sections will be divided, but I’d think Bluefield, James Monroe, River View, Independence, Liberty (R), Shady, Oak Hill, Nicholas County, PikeView, Wyoming East, and Westside would make up Region 3.

Region 4 will probably be Mingo Central, Man, Logan, Chapmanville, Wayne and Scott in one section. Then, I would think the other section would be Winfield, Nitro, Lincoln County, Point Pleasant, and Poca. Some teams have to leave this region, and I think it makes the most sense for it to be Nicholas County (to R3), Herbert Hoover, Sissonville, and Clay County.

I would think Hoover, Sissonville, and Clay could join Roane County and Braxton County in a section. I’d imagine this would be in Region 1 opposite the current section of Weir, Oak Glen, North Marion, Fairmont Senior, and East Fairmont.

One of the sections in Region 2 is still intact with Bridgeport, RCB, Lincoln, Liberty (H), Philip Barbour, and Grafton. The other is as well, though it is likely to add at least one to its four members: Keyser, Berkeley Springs, Frankfort, and Petersburg.

This leaves two teams to add in: Elkins and Lewis County. I’d think Elkins would join Petersburg, Keyser, etc. Lewis could fit in just about any, but I’d think they’d probably go with Braxton, Roane, etc. since there are only 5 teams in that section and 6 in the region. So here’s my AA guess, (only of regions, not necessarily sections):

R1: Weir, Oak Glen, North Marion, Fairmont Senior, East Fairmont, Lewis County, Herbert Hoover, Sissonville, Clay County, Roane County, Braxton County.


R2: Bridgeport, Robert C. Byrd, Lincoln, Liberty (H), Philip Barbour, Grafton, Elkins, Petersburg, Berkeley Springs, Keyser, Frankfort


R3: Bluefield, James Monroe, River View, Independence, Liberty (R), Shady, Oak Hill, Nicholas County, PikeView, Wyoming East, Westside


R4: Mingo Central, Logan, Man, Chapmanville, Wayne, Scott, Poca, Nitro, Winfield, Point Pleasant, Lincoln County


As for Class A alignments, well…there’s a lot of them, and my head hurts from trying to sort this stuff out, and I’d be surprised if anyone is still actually reading at this point, considering how many words I’ve already typed. So we’ll save single A for another day.

2015 State Quarterfinal Recap: Session 3

Fairmont Senior kicked off the AA tournament with a solid 59-44 victory over Mingo Central. The Polar Bears led 31-23 at the half, but Central was able to keep the margin between 3 and 5 points for much of the second half. Senior was able to push the lead back out to a more comfortable margin in the middle of the fourth quarter and coasted to the 15-point victory.

Tavon Horton was outstanding for Fairmont Senior, scoring 23 points and adding 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Jacob Casiluonova chipped in 11 points and Micheal Holloway added 8 points and 14 rebounds. Dalton Hatfield paced the miners with 15 points. Dikembe Dixson scored 13 and Montrell Dixson added 9 points and 9 rebounds.

Woodrow Wilson advanced to the semifinals by squeaking out a 60-59 victory over Martinsburg. The game was tight the whole way, with Woodrow leading by 2 after one quarter, 3 at the half, and the game was tied after three. A Noah Hancock (23 pts, 14 reb) basket gave Beckley a 54-48 lead with 2:44 to play, and a miraculous tip in by Hancock gave the Flying Eagles a 58-55 lead with 36 seconds remaining. Two free throws by Malyk Fowlkes (his only 2 points of the game) put Woodrow up by 4 w/ 5 seconds to play, and a long three at the buzzer by Jessiya Villa set the final margin.

Stephen Beasley and Brent Osborne joined Hancock in double figures with 11 points apiece. Villa led Martinsburg with 17 points, and Jarrell Jones scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Devonte Redman added 12 points for the Bulldogs and Juwan Green pulled in 11 rebounds.

In the final game of the session, seventh-seeded Bluefield jumped out to a quick 12-2 lead over Bridgeport before the Indians settled in to take control of the game. Bridgeport cut the deficit to 1 at the end of the quarter and then led by 4 at the half and 12 after three quarters on the way to a 70-56 victory. The Beavers hit Bridgeport with their best punch to start the game, but they just could not sustain it.

Nick Greely led all scorers with 24 for Bridgeport. Chase Robey and Hunter Haddix joined him in double figures with 13 and 11, respectively. John Wilfong was just shy of a double-double with 9 points and 11 rebounds. Jordan Ponder scored 15 to lead Bluefield, and Corey Coppola added 10.

Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior will meet again at 11:15 on Friday morning. Woodrow Wilson will face Parkersburg South in the semifinals at 5:30 on Friday evening.

2015 State Quarterfinal Recap: Session 2

The evening session picked up right where the morning session left off.

Top-seed Wheeling Central needed a late comeback to force overtime before sneaking away with a 73- 66 victory over Charleston Catholic. The Maroon Knights played much of the first half without Chase Harler (17 pts, 9 reb), who was in foul trouble. Charleston Catholic weathered a barrage of early 3-pointers from Central and recovered to take a 30-29 lead at the half. The Irish held a 59-53 lead with 1:42 to play before Boyd Bibey (15 pts) hit two 3-pointers to tie it up. Harler got two good looks at the basket on the final possession for Central, but couldn’t knock either down. The Maroon Knights went up 6 points early in the overtime period and cruised the rest of the way to victory.

Trenton Smith had a outstanding game for Central, scoring 26 points and hitting 6 of his 8 3-point attempts. Roger Burdette made big play after big play for Charleston Catholic, finishing with 21 points. Hayden McCarty and Michael Martin chipped in 11 apiece and Sam Jenkins added 8 points and 12 rebounds.

In the 1/8 matchup in AAA, Parkersburg South struggled a bit before finally rolling to a 71-49 victory over Musselman. The Patriots forced a bunch of turnovers early while jumping out to a 15-5 lead, but once Musselman settled down, they were competitive. The Applemen trailed just 43-40 at the 5:30 mark of the third quarter, but South finished the quarter on a 17-0 run to erase the remaining doubt.

JR Kerr paced Parkersburg South with 19 points, with Garrett Gilkeson adding 17 and Ty Dobson 11. Kyle Jackson had 20 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs, for the Applemen.

The nightcap proved that no lead was safe on this quarterfinal Wednesday. Tug Valley led by 7 over Williamstown at the half and held a 37-22 margin at the end of three quarters. After struggling to do much of anything against Tug’s defense, Williamstown found a way to score 24 points in the final period. The Yellow Jackets took a lead on two Gage Wix free throws with less than a minute to play and held on for a 46-42 victory.

Wix led Williamstown with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Palmer and Chandler Weber added 9 points apiece. Calvin Blankenship led all scorers with 15 for Tug Valley. Freshman Jeremy Dillon scored 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.

Wheeling Central and Williamstown will square off in the semifinals at 1:00 on Friday afternoon. Parkersburg South will face the winner of Martinsburg and Woodrow Wilson at 5:30 on Friday.



2015 Tourney Preview: Class AA

The state tournament is underway, so it’s time to preview the final class that has yet to begin tournament play. We’ll be looking at the matchups in AA.

Class AA has been somewhat top heavy all year, with Poca entering the tournament undefeated, Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior going deep into the regular season before losing, and Westside suffering just two losses thus far. Late in the season, though, Robert C. Byrd has been playing as well as just about anyone. I see the top-heavy trend to continue, with a blowout or two in the quarterfinals and then two great semifinal games.


Poca has been rolling since…well…all season, really. They’ve been tested a little more this season in conference play than a year ago. This can be viewed as a sign of weakness or a sign that they are more experienced and battle-tested this year. Regardless, Ravenswood has had a nice season, but I just can’t see them giving Poca a serious threat. (I think they are a year or maybe two away from being really good, though.)

Winner: Poca

Bridgeport takes on two-time defending champion Bluefield in the 2/7 matchup, though this certainly is not the same Bluefield nucleus that won the two titles. I think the Beavers could give Bridgeport some trouble with their athleticism, but I think the Indians have a little too much for them.

Winner: Bridgeport

The 3/6 matchup between Fairmont Senior and Mingo Central will be quite the athletic showcase. The Dixsons for Central can jump out of the gym, and the Polar Bears have quickness all over the place. My biggest question is if Mingo Central’s guards can hold up against Senior’s pressure man defense. I ultimately don’t think they can, and I like the Polar Bears to advance.

Winner: Fairmont Senior

The matchup between Westside and Robert C. Byrd is by far the most difficult to predict of any of the AA quarterfinal contests. Both teams have players with a ton of state tournament experience. Westside looked to be the better team for much of the year, but RCB really came on late in the season. (The one scheduled game between the two was snowed out.) I think this game will come down to which team shoots the best, and that is always difficult to predict. There’s just been something about this Westside team all year, though. I think the Renegades find a way to avenge their semifinal loss from last year.

Winner: Westside


A Poca matchup with either Westside or RCB in the semifinals could be really good. If it is Westside, I think the Renegades will have a chance to pull off the win if they can shoot well and if Justin Cogar can hurt Poca a little bit inside. I think the Dots will find a way to defend them, though, and advance to the finals.

Winner: Poca

I missed out on the first two Bridgeport/Fairmont Senior matchups this season (which they split), so I am kind of hoping for a chance to see round 3. In the rubber match, I’ll take Fairmont Senior’s athleticism and pressure defense to make the difference.

Winner: Fairmont Senior


I don’t think it particularly matters if Poca plays Fairmont Senior or Bridgeport because it should be a good one either way. (Or if Westside or RCB makes it instead of Poca.) I think Fairmont Senior’s athleticism could give the Dots some trouble. I like Poca’s ability to handle pressure defense, score in a variety of ways, and defend at all positions. Though undefeated records haven’t been friendly to teams in recent years at the tournament, I like Poca to cut down the nets.

Champion: Poca

2015 State Quarterfinal Recap: Session 1

What a dandy of a first session we had to kick off the 2015 state tournament.

The session started off with an all-time great comeback by Magnolia to steal away a 49-48 victory over Notre Dame. The Irish led by 3 at the half and 10 after three quarters, and the lead was all the way up to 13 with 3:45 to play. Notre Dame was still up 10 with 2:00 to play when the Blue Eagles really started to chip away at the lead. After a combination of missed free throws and turnovers, a three by Preston Boswell (23 points) cut the lead to 48-47 with 24 seconds to play. Magnolia forced a turnover on the ensuing possession. Boswell drove to the basket, was fouled, and made two free throws to give the Blue Eagles a one-point lead. Jarrod West (22 pts) just missed a last-second jumper, and Magnolia came away with the win.

Boswell was fantastic down the stretch, scoring 14 of his 23 points in the final period. He struggled from the field for the game (33%), but he hit his only 3-pointer of the game at the right time. He also shot a solid 12 of 14 from the free throw line and pulled in 11 rebounds. Big man Mitch Winters also notched a double-double with 10 points and 14 boards. West was the lone member of the Irish in double figures, with Noah Bohanna adding 9 points and 6 rebounds.

We moved from one thriller to the next, with Trey Dawson hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Hurricane to a 59-56 over seventh-seeded Parkersburg. Much like Notre Dame, Parkersburg had built a fourth quarter lead that it could not keep. The Big Reds led 53-48 with about 4:00 to play and decided to try to run some clock. Hurricane climbed back into the game, and a JT Rogoszewski three with 29 seconds to play gave them a 56-55 lead. Ja’Darien Wade was fouled and hit one of two free throws to tie the game with 11 seconds to play. Parkersburg opted to play zone defense to throw Hurricane off on the final possession. Dawson passed to Dylan Tinsley on the left wing, then Tinsley threw it back to Dawson at the top of the key, and Dawson drained one from about 25 feet as time expired. 

Rogoszewski led Hurricane with 22 points, and Dawson added 21 points and 6 assists. Noah Fenerty chipped in 5 points and 9 rebounds. Ja’Darien Wade went out with a phenomenal 24 point, 17 rebound performance for Parkersburg. Michael Ramsey added 13 points and Jordan Colebank 10.

The final game of the session did not follow the pattern of the first two. Greater Beckley Christian raced out a 17-10 first quarter lead over Tucker County and never looked back, cruising to a 79-50 victory. The Mountain Lions struggled to match up with GBC’s athleticism from the tip. Elisha Kidd scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, and Brent Daniels and Isaiah Francis finished with 16 and 15, respectively. Freshman Ty Walton added 13 rebounds for the Crusaders. Derek Zirk and Seth Evans scored 11 apiece to lead Tucker.

Greater Beckley Christian and Magnolia will now square off in the semifinals at 9:30am on Friday. Hurricane will take on the winner of Huntington and Greenbrier East at 9:00 Friday evening.

2015 Tourney Preview: Class AAA

Tourney time is upon us, and it’s time to preview the teams and matchups in each class. We move now to AAA.

I picked only 4 of 8 tournament teams correctly in my preview, yet I feel in a way I was validated and spot on in my analysis. I have been saying all year that AAA is both very even and wide open. Though some teams established themselves throughout the year to be the best in their section or region, there was never much of a gap. When the postseason started, chaos ensued.

The difficult part now is to try to figure out if the chaos is over, or if it is just getting started. Will we see big upsets, or will we see the teams that are favored move on? I tend to think the majority of the chaos is over.


Musselman has had a really nice second half of the season, which included knocking off Martinsburg in the regular season and Jefferson in the sectional. They are very young, though, and probably a year or two away from making serious noise on the state level. I’ve thought for some time that Parkersburg South is the best team in the state when they play well. I also like their experience in this one.

Winner: Parkersburg South

Hurricane will be playing in the 2/7 game for the third consecutive year, but this will be their first as the favorite. Parkersburg is very talented, and their win at Morgantown in the regional final capped an excellent second half of the season for the Big Reds. This is much more evenly matched than your average 2/7 game, but I like Hurricane’s experience from the championship game run last year. They also seem very focused and on a mission after the way last year’s game ended.

Winner: Hurricane

Defending champion Huntington is right back in the same spot it was last year: a middle seed and flying a little under the radar. Greenbrier East is making its first trip back to the state tournament since 2002 after a surprising regional win at Capital. The Spartans go as point guard Christian Ortiz goes. Huntington has certainly played the tougher schedule, but Greenbrier East was able to win that regional on the road when no one expected them to do so. If Ortiz can get rolling and the Spartans can knock down some shots, they definitely have a chance. I think there will be one more surprising upset in AAA before the tourney is over, so I’ll pick this to be the one. (And now that I’ve picked it, Huntington will likely win the state championship.)

Winner: Greenbrier East

I think people are sleeping on Martinsburg a little bit. They are very talented and have no bad losses. They also have a player in Jarrell Jones that could lead them on a deep run. Woodrow Wilson isn’t quite as talented as they’ve been the last few years, but they are tough and really defend well. This one could go either way, but I like the Bulldogs.

Winner: Martinsburg


If Parkersburg South and Martinsburg do meet in the semifinals, it will be a rematch of a game won by South by just a point at the Big Atlantic Classic. Martinsburg is certainly talented enough to win this game, but the recent pattern for them has been to get to the tournament with a young team only lose a winnable game one year (’08 and ’12) and then win the state championship the next season (’09 and ’13). Maybe the pattern continues and they make a run next year, or maybe they break through and make a run at the title this season. Ultimately, I think South is the best team when they play well, so I’m going with the Patriots.

Winner: Parkersburg South

If Greenbrier East advances, Ortiz could give Hurricane lots of problems. I trust Hurricane’s ability to defend, though. I also like their ability to score in a variety of ways. No matter which team they face in the semifinals, I like Hurricane to advance. (A rematch of last year’s title game between Huntington and Hurricane after two close regular season meetings would be fantastic, too.)

Winner: Hurricane


We have a (hypothetical) matchup here between the team I think is the best when they play well (Parkersburg South) and a team that I trust as much as any, has lots of experience, and seems to be on a mission after the way last season ended (Hurricane). If this is, indeed, the title game matchup, I expect it to be a great one. Matchups like Trey Dawson vs. Cody Monroe and J.T. Rogoszewski vs. Garrett Gilkeson would be fantastic. There’s something about this Hurricane team that really makes me want to pick them, but I almost always go with the team I think is best and assume both teams will play up to their ability. Therefore, I’ll go with the Patriots to cut down the nets.

Champion: Parkersburg South

But AAA has been nothing but wide-open chaos all year, so goodness knows what will actually happen.