By Dave Morrison
NEW RICHMOND — Wyoming East came close last year. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come.
The Warriors lost just one senior and one transfer from a team that had several big victories and close calls during the 2017-18 season.
Wyoming East (14-8) beat state tournament semifinalist Winfield twice in the regular season.
Winfield went on to eliminate Wyoming East’s county rival Westside in the first round of the state tournament.
The Warriors lost to Class AA Region 3 overall top seed Oak Hill twice, but by a combined five points in 64-60 and 57-56 losses.
And speaking of Westside, the Warriors did lose to their rivals three times, including a 58-51 in a sectional elimination game, but did win once, in a season highlight moment.
Former Renegade R.J. Hood hit a 3 to give the Warriors a 72-69 victory at Westside Feb. 10.
Now, the Warriors a
re poised to return to the top of the county and the region returning three double figure scorers from last year’s team.
Leading scorer McQuade Canada (13.9 point per game and 28 3s) was a third-team all-state pick.
Hood returns after averaging 12.7 with a team-best 35s threes for a team that was third in the region with 140 3s last season. Evan Preece, along with Hood one of two seniors on this year’s squad, is also back after averaging 10.1 ppg last season.
“We have our key nucleus back,” coach Derek Brooks, now beginning his fourth year at Wyoming East, said. “We have four our of five starters back and (Jake) Bishop played a ton for us so we will have that experience.”
The Warriors lost just one senior starter in Ethan England (6.6 ppg) and Jared Cannady, a quality young shooter (17 3s and 3.9 ppg) transferred to sectional foe Independence.
Also back are veterans Caden Lookabill (5.4 ppg, 21 3s), Bishop (5.7 ppg) and Chase York (4.2 ppg, five 3s).
“Of course we’re going to ask a lot of Hood , Canada, Preece, and Lookabill (43 combined double figure games),” Brooks said. “I also look for Bishop to step up as more of scorer this year as well as Chase York, who had a tremendous summer. Anthony Martin is much improved as well. I expect a great year out of these hard-working young men.”
The Warriors will be one of Region 3’s top shooting teams, returning 117 of their 140 made 3s from last season.
It is that shooting ability that Brooks says is one of the team’s chief strengths entering the season.
“We have shooting ability across the board,” Brooks said. “All of our starters are capable of hitting shots from the outside. Another strength is this group has been together and that shows. They play well together.”
The core group spent the summer together playing in summer leagues at Graham, Va. and Beckley.
The one glaring weakness is one that can’t be helped, but is lack of size. Like last season, the Warriors don’t have a true big man, making up for that deficiency with its outstanding shooters on the perimeter.
Brooks is also hoping to see improvements to the overall game.
“We need to keep building on our team chemistry,” Brooks said. “I’d like to find out who is going to step up and be the team leader. And, you can always play better defensively. Without a lot of size there are things we need to do to be successful and playing good defense is one of things.”
Wyoming East missed the state tournament last season after two straight appearances. The Warriors were the last Region 3 team posting a win in the state tournament in 2016.
The Warriors will get a chance to show how good they are right out of the gate.Wyoming starts the season at runner-up Fairmont Senior and Robert C. Byrd in a tournament at Fairmont and home against Winfield before a game against national team Wesley Christian, coached by former PikeView assistant coach Dave Meddings.”We have some big games right out of the gate, as well as all year,”” Brooks said. “We’ve beefed up our schedule this year.”Wyoming East shot 65 percent from the free throw line last season, a little lower than expected from one of the better perimeter shooting teams in the area. The Warriors averaged 67 points per game.