Girls basketball season tips off tonight
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Parkersburg South and St. Joseph ran away with the top rankings in Class AAA and Class A, respectively, in Monday's Associated Press preseason girls high school basketball poll as the season tips off tonight around the state.
Tonight, schools in West Virginia are allowed to begin regular-season play, though most Kanawha and Putnam County squads open later in the week or next week.
South, the Class AAA defending state champion, received all 10 first-place votes from West Virginia's sports writers to claim the No. 1 spot with 100 points. Spring Valley and Logan, last season's state runner-up, tied for second with 80 points apiece, followed by Morgantown and University to round out the top five.
George Washington was the only Kanawha Valley team in the AAA poll, ninth with 23 points.
St. Joe, the Class A five-time defending state titlist that is chasing history for a sixth straight championship, also garnered all 10 first-place votes for 100 points and the No. 1 ranking. St. Marys, last year's state runner-up, was second with 83 points, followed by No. 3 Wheeling Central, No. 4 Tucker County and No. 5 Williamstown.
Valley, which advanced to states last season for the first time since 1991, checked in ninth with 16 points in the Class A poll. Charleston Catholic and Buffalo were the only schools from Kanawha and Putnam counties to receive votes, garnering five and four, respectively.
Westside, last year's Class AA state runner-up who won it all in 2012, earned seven first-place votes and 97 points for the No. 1 position.
North Marion, which took three straight Class AAA titles from 2009-11, was second with 66 points, trailed by Fairmont Senior, which received one first-place vote and 64 points, Bridgeport, last year's state champion that garnered two first-place votes and 59 points, and Sissonville rounded out the top five.
GW begins the new season with a bitter taste in its mouth after losing to Princeton on its home floor in the AAA regional co-finals, one step away from states. The Patriots had advanced to the state semifinals the previous two seasons.
The Patriots lost three starters to graduation and must wait until the end of December or early January to get senior post player Kelli Jo Harrison, a Class AAA all-state third-team selection, back in the starting lineup after she suffered a knee injury during the summer.
GW coach Jamie LaMaster sees possibilities in the flexibility his lineup can afford him.
"We can put a 5-7 to 5-9 lineup on the floor that's very athletic,'' he said. "It's unusual for me to have so many possibilities and combinations.''
Sissonville has one of the top scoring guard duos in sophomores Madison Jones, who was second in the Cardinal Conference in scoring at 17.0 points per game and earned a Class AA all-state second-team selection, and Karli Pinkerton, who was third in the conference at 15.2 points.
In addition, Brittany Gould, who averaged 21.3 points at Clay County last year, transferred to Sissonville.
South has junior guard Keya Bartlett and sophomore point guard Taryn McCutcheon returning. Logan 5-11 junior point guard Shayna Gore, who poured in 36 points in her tournament debut and missed the single-game mark by seven points, and 6-2 sophomore center Monica Mitchell, who averaged a double-double at states, are also coming into their own.
St. Joe returns its entire starting five for another Class A run, including seniors Mychal Thompson and Griffin Dempsey, both all-state players.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.