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Lots of subplots for Westside, Bridgeport

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As far as student sections are concerned, there may not be a more anticipated quarterfinal game than this morning's Class AA tilt between No. 3 Westside and No. 6 Bridgeport, scheduled for a 9:30 tip.

You see, both student bodies were chanting at each other across the Charleston Civic Center floor on Saturday as the Indians bested the Renegades in the girls state championship game.

Westside's yells of "Wait 'til next week" were met with Bridgeport's response of "We'll be waiting."

But while there may be a little more riding on this one in terms of bragging rights, Renegades coach Nick Cook said a win wouldn't mean much as far as the girls game is concerned.

"The girls will probably hurt just as much even if the boys do win," Cook explained. "There may be a little more [intensity] around the school and with the other kids."

Bridgeport coach Gene Randolph fully expects a hungry Westside crowd to await his team.

"That's another interesting sidebar to this game - they're probably waiting on us right now," Randolph said. "They're fired up, obviously. We've got our hands full. That's the kind of stuff that makes the state tournament great."

While last Saturday's happenings add a twist to this morning's game, it's certainly not the only interesting subplot.

Randolph, who is ending his 20th and final season with his ninth trip to the state tournament, began his career at Bridgeport with the 1993-94 season, when the Indians made the Class AA title game before falling 68-61 to Oceana.

Cook was a key member of that Oceana team, which lost to Bridgeport in the championship game the previous season.

"Coach Randolph is a great coach," Cook said. "I've watched them over the years and his teams are always fundamentally sound. They do all the little things well."

"He's a tough guy and he was an aggressive guy when he played and his team obviously mirrors him a little bit," Randolph said. "They're a pretty tough lot. They're hard-nosed guys, they get after you a bit, and they'll get up into you and defend."

Both teams got off to a rough start with Westside starting 6-5 and Bridgeport limping out to a 2-4 start before both closed strong.

The Renegades (19-6) come into the tournament as hot as any team in the state, winning their last 10 games and 13 out of 14. The result is the school's first boys state tournament appearance since Westside finished as the Class AA runner-up in 2005 after a four-point loss to Logan.

"The season started off a little rocky and we had a little adversity to get through," Cook said. "We changed a lot of things about who we were and what we did. We regrouped and since that point on we've had a lot of success. It's been a really good second half of the season for us."

Much of that success has been due to a trio of double-digit scorers in Corey Bowles (19 points per game), Justin Cogar (17), and Levi Lambert (13).

The Indians (18-7) are probably even more balanced on the offensive end.

Senior guard Tyler Sprouse leads Bridgeport, averaging 14 points, while senior wing Jordan Haywood contributes 13.5 points per game and sophomore forward John Wilfong pitches in with 10 points and seven rebounds per contest.

But much of the attention will be on Bridgeport's longtime coach, who said he couldn't think of a better place to end his career than in the Civic Center this week.

"What a venue, it's my favorite place to play," Randolph said. "I didn't know if I was going to make it back down. But I started out there and to finish up there - we hope we can milk it for as long as we can."

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.

 


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