By Rick Ryan
Assistant sports editor
The lure of competing in an event like the Big Atlantic Classic in Beckley is that you get a chance to tackle an unfamiliar opponent on an unfamiliar floor with (possibly) unfamiliar officials.
In other words, a learning experience. For teams that have designs on reaching the state basketball tournament, you can use all the lessons you can get.
So it is for the boys teams at Hurricane and Capital, who get the chance to test themselves Friday against one of the state's best Class AAA teams and one of the top individual players, respectively, when they take the floor in the week-long hoops event at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
The Redskins (10-3) meet Class AAA No. 7 Parkersburg South (11-1) at approximately 5:40 p.m. Friday, shortly after the No. 3 Cougars (6-1) play Lewis County (6-2) at 4 p.m.
Hurricane runs into a Patriots' squad that is nothing but balanced.
Logan Lawrentz, a 6-foot-6 senior, averages 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds to lead South, but he's followed closely in scoring by Cody Monroe (9.5 points), J.R. Kerr (9.2), Garrett Gilkeson (8.6), Ty Dobson (8.4) and Tyler Berry (8.2). Monroe has also drawn 16 charges from opposing players.
Six different players have led the Patriots in scoring in a game so far this season.
"You can't key on anyone,'' said Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland. "We watched them on film a couple of times and all of them can score. All of them can shoot and take it inside. They're all about the same height, too.
"It's a very solid team and you can't pick out one person and say, 'We're gonna shut this person down and we'll be OK.' That's why they've only lost one game. They'll be hard to beat.''
South, which has beaten one ranked team, No. 10 Wheeling Park, suffered its lone loss last week to Morgantown 59-56.
Sutherland realizes that a good showing for his team in a showcase like the Big Atlantic can pay dividends in other areas, too.
"Exactly,'' he said, "when it comes to seeding in the sectionals and regionals. I think we need to be in more situations like that, with competition like Parkersburg South. If we pull that one off, we probably get Beckley again.
"It's great for us to get teams like that in a place like that with a lot of people. It can help get our program's name out there, and help our players like Henry [Sorsaia] and Trey [Dawson] when it comes to all-state votes. A lot of people don't know where Hurricane is anyway.''
The 6-5 Sorsaia (22.0 points) ranks second in scoring in the Mountain State Athletic Conference, and Dawson averages 14.0 points.
The survivor between Hurricane and South advances to the AAA boys co-final against the Woodrow Wilson-University winner at 7:20 p.m. Saturday.
In the other four-team bracket, Capital lines up against one of West Virginia's more-prolific players when it meets Lewis and 6-4 senior John Riley, who turns in 25.0 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.