CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There was a question at the start of the season if George Washington would remain among the state's elite teams.
The Patriots, who advanced to the Class AAA championship game each of the past two seasons, returned only one of their top six players - all-state guard and player of the year candidate Luke Eddy - and were primed for a possible letdown, especially playing in the cutthroat Mountain State Athletic Conference.
But GW (13-4) has stayed in the top 10 of the state rankings, riding the efforts of Eddy, who leads the league in scoring at 27.9 points per game.
The Patriots' only losses have come to No. 1 South Charleston, No. 3 Woodrow Wilson, No. 9 Huntington and rival Capital by one point in their opener.
"[The difference now] is we don't have any margin for error,'' said GW coach Rick Greene. "With most teams, if we play and do what we can do, we can be competitive. Sometimes we get into deep teams, the more athletic teams, and we just don't have enough firepower.
"I wouldn't say we're with the elite guys. We're kind of clumped up with everybody else after you go South Charleston, Beckley, Huntington and Martinsburg. No disrespect to anybody else, but those four on a given night are really, really good. All four of those would give us trouble, but maybe we would be competitive with everybody else I've seen at this point.''
Looking out for No. 1
Some teams - and some coaches in particular - shy away from possibly being ranked No. 1 in their class in The Associated Press state poll.
They don't want the extra attention the designation receives from opponents all too eager to knock off the top dog.
South Charleston, however, isn't like most. Coach Vic Herbert doesn't crave the top ranking, but he doesn't hide from it, either. The Black Eagles (16-1) have been No. 1 in AAA the past three weeks.
"I think it's good for the community,'' Herbert said, "and it's good for the school and it's good for our players. A lot of pride is taken in that, and I like it. But that 'X' on our back is made that much bigger because of being No. 1.
"Don't think for a second that people don't know our streak in this league [the MSAC]. We're getting everybody's best shot. Everybody comes to play, and we've got to come to play every single night.''
South Charleston will be gunning for its 40th straight win in an MSAC game when it visits Capital Tuesday.
Some of the Black Eagles players are getting used to being the target at which other teams in AAA are shooting.
"That's a building block,'' said senior guard Rashaud Kincaid. "We know we're everybody's biggest game. We just try to go out and play every game like we're No. 8 or No. 7. It doesn't matter what rank we are. We don't worry about that. We just try to play as hard as we can and get the job done.''
Confidence takes no HIT
Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins was upbeat following Saturday night's buzzer-beater loss to St. Marys in the Division I finals of the West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament in Summersville.
Andrew Cosper launched in an off-balance 18-footer as time expired to give the Blue Devils a 63-61 victory in a matchup of top-10 Class A teams.