Greenbrier West, Bluefield and Oak Hill are all hoping to return home from Charleston with a championship trophy this weekend.
It’s been 27 years since a Cavaliers team has taken the court in the state basketball tournament. That all changes tonight.
“It makes me really happy,” senior Riley O’Dell said. “We’ve been working for this for years. This is our goal and we finally made it here.”
“It’s a lot of excitement right now,” twin brother Collin O’Dell admitted. “I say once we get up there I’ll be a little nervous, but hopefully the nerves will calm down.”
Co-head coach Jared Robertson recalls some of his own nerves when he played on Greenbrier West’s 1992 state championship team.
“A few of them asked me ‘were you nervous’,” Robertson said. “I said, ‘honestly I was nervous’ … It’s a little bit more nerve-wracking maybe because everything is on the line.”
Now as a coach, he is thrilled for the opportunity that lies ahead for his team.
“Everybody from around here knows our team from 1992,” he said. “Everybody still talks about it a long time later. And — it’s special — I want that for you guys.”
The Cavaliers will play Trinity Christian in the Class A Quarterfinal at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
As for Bluefield, the 2019 state tournament will be the program’s eighth-consecutive appearance. It’s a remarkable accomplishment that is not lost on the players.
“It’s the coaching staff,” senior Mark Glen said. “It’s outrageous. They just work us very hard and make us determined to get up there.”
But for the last three years, each trip to Charleston has ended in the first round.
“[Charleston’s] not been good to us the past four years,” assistant coach Tony Webster said. “But, we’re not going to think about that too much.”
However, with this year’s senior leadership and bench depth, the Beavers could be poised for a deep tournament run.
“They know it hurts to be up there for 24 hours,” Webster said. “I think it means a lot to them just to get up there this year and make a little bit of noise.”
Bluefield will play their quarterfinal at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday against Poca.
Last, but not least, Oak Hill is snapping a tournament drought of its own in 2019. The Red Devils last made a trip to the Civic Center when they won it all in 2011.
“It’s always a good feeling going to Charleston, being one of the last eight teams in the state in Class AA,” head coach Benitzez Jackson said. “To be left standing and to compete for a championship, It’s a great feeling.”
The squad has a pair of players averaging double-digits in scoring, but the team’s identity is tied to their intensity on the other end of the court.
“Defense. It’s all been defense,” senior Dante Billiter said. “Pressuring the ball full court, just playing as hard as we can on defense and just letting our offense come to us.”
“If someone else is bringing energy, I feel like another person will bring energy,” teammate Abraham Farrow added. “If we all have the same energy, I feel like our defense will carry us.”
Oak Hill will close out the quarterfinal round against Robert C. Byrd on Thursday at 9 p.m.