CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Being the No. 8 seed in the Class AAA tournament, Huntington knows it has its work cut out when it faces No. 1 Martinsburg at 7:15 tonight at the Civic Center.
However, the team isn't showing any nervousness about the challenge that lies ahead.
"We're excited and looking forward to the opportunity to come and play the No. 1 team in our class," said Huntington coach Ron Hess. "It's going to be a great atmosphere and a great game."
The Region 4 co-champion Highlanders, who earned a bid to the state tournament with a 70-63 win over Nitro last week, are hoping for a big game from 6-foot-4 junior Arick Nicks, who averages a team-high 17.2 points.
Solid contributions are also expected from Chancelor Wooding (11.0) and Shaquan Miller (9.2).
"Our main goal at the start of the season was getting into the tournament," Hess said. "We feel pretty good about what we've accomplished so far. When you get to the state tournament, you know all eight teams are going to be very good basketball teams. We've got the top team in Martinsburg and we'll be ready."
For Huntington (18-6) to advance to Friday's semifinals, the key is keeping focused and not making early mistakes.
"We have to be able to pressure Martinsburg," said Hess. "We can't commit turnovers and get behind early or else it's going to be a very long night. Plus, with [Martinsburg's] size, we have to be able to box out and not allow any offensive rebounds."
On the other hand, Martinsburg (23-2) is coming to the Capital City to prove to everyone why it is the team to beat this year.
"Like everything else, it's a privilege to be the No. 1 team and we have to come to Charleston and actually play like we're the No. 1 team," said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. "Huntington is a very good basketball team. They've got good athletes who can shoot the ball and rebound. They are really good on the post when they throw it low and then kick it back outside."
Martinsburg made it into the tournament as a Region 2 co-champion with an 88-56 win over Elkins, its 10th win in a row.
The Bulldogs are paced by 6-foot-7 senior Donte' Grantham at 17 points per game and senior Jalen Lewis averages 15. The team may be without the services of junior center Brian Hairston due to an injury suffered in February.
"Brian has been out for the last month because of a foot injury," Rogers said. "He's finally out of the [walking] boot and has been working out, but I'm not sure how much time we'll get out of him against Huntington. However, we've played 10, 11 players all year, so when one player goes down, we have someone ready to step up and take his place."