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Teays Valley Christian gets opportunity vs. Huntington Prep

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the second straight year, Teays Valley Christian will get a little reward after completing the West Virginia Christian Athletic Tournament.

The Lions (19-8) will host Huntington Prep at 7:30 tonight, accounting for Teays Valley's final game of the season and Huntington Prep's first and only contest against an in-state school.

The teams played in Teays Valley last year, with Prep taking a 121-50 victory as current Florida State player Xavier Rathan-Mayes went for 55 points for the Express.

Maybe it doesn't seem like such a reward for TVC to have to play against a team full of Division 1 commits, but coach Jody Sowards points out there are benefits for both sides.

"Two years ago they contacted us and we started back-and-forth texting to their assistants and their thing was, 'Nobody will play us, we'd like to have some in-state representation," Sowards said. "For us it's two things - the opportunity to play them even knowing good and well it's a different level, and also the opportunity for our kids to be in the gym and say, 'We got to play against Andrew Wiggins.' "

Sowards said the school sold 600 tickets to last year's game, with much of that being buoyed by the hype of Wiggins, who was rated as the No. 1 high school player in the country by rivals.com before debuting at Kansas this year.

The relationship formed between the two schools has also paid other kinds of dividends for the Lions as senior Vlad Novak of Russia transferred in this season from Prep and played a large role for a Teays Valley Christian team that finished second in the WVCAT tournament at Summersville. The Lions fell 65-54 to Greater Beckley Christian in the finals on Saturday.

One good thing about coming into a game against an opponent like Huntington Prep is that Teays Valley admittedly has nothing to lose, and Sowards said his team is going to let it fly tonight.

"We can't run with them, they're faster than us and we know that," Sowards said. "We want to see hard work. When their bigs get the ball under the basket, we need to double-team them. We've got to run out and get hands in their shooters' faces and we've got to take care of the ball on offense.

"We've got some kids that can shoot it from 3 or 4 feet behind 3-point range. They wouldn't do it in the regular season, but they can hit from out there. [Tonight], we may just have to pull it from out there because a lot of their kids or 6-[foot]-6 or 6-7."

Most often, coaches aren't interested in moral victories, but no one at Teays Valley Christian is harboring much hope in terms of winning tonight's game.

Instead, Sowards said the level of his squad's effort will determine success for the evening.

"Success for us is playing hard from the beginning to the end," Sowards said. "Last year, we put up 50 or so points against them and they put up well over 100, but we were looking at their schedule and they were beating college JV teams that way too. An official told me after the game that we should be proud of our guys, because they played hard and didn't quit and put up 50-some points on one of the best teams in the country."

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


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