By Dave Morrison
Liberty came into the season with big expectations, with one if the area’s top players, AJ Williams, and an outstanding supporting cast.
The scenery had changed in terms of the Raiders region setup. Gone from the old Class AA Region 3 were the like of Shady Spring,
Oak Hill and Westside. Added were Mingo Central and Chapmanville.
There was potential for a big season. A worldwide pandemic had other ideas. Several teams were hit hard, Liberty was one of the tams hit the hardest.
The coaching staff, including head coach Chad Williams were sick. The players were quarantined and couldn’t get in the gym.
After beating Summers County to improve to 4-1, the team was shut down for nearly a month.
They returned on April 9 and fell in a pair of one-point losses to Class AAA Independence (80-79) and Lincoln County (56-55).
The Raiders finished the season 4-3.
The result ended up being Liberty was seeded third in its three-team section. Despite beating Mingo Central 51-38 in what turned out to be a rare regular season game, the Raiders were forced to to the road where they beat Mingo again (6-0-36) but fell to Chapmanville (53-42) in the section championship.
Williams averaged 21.3 points but he only played in seven games this season. He hit eight 3s and shot 71.8 percent from the free throw line (23-32). Adam Drennen had a solid season averaging 15.6 points and Braden Howell averaged 11.4.
Bluefield lost all five starters and 10 seniors total from a team that lost just three games last year. The result has been an up and down season.
But the Beavers retained their ability to throw on their vaunted press at a moments notice. Bluefield did that against Wyoming East and the result was a 45-43 victory, a score that seems to be the norm in this region.
Bluefield is just 7-10, but they have won four of five, the lone loss to Class AAAA state tournament qualifier Woodrow Wilson.
While Bluefield is on a roll, the Beavers were just 4-5 at Brushfork Armory, once a house of horrors for opponents and the Beavers had not lost five at Brushfork in the last five seasons. Caleb Fuller and Logan Hyder are double figure scorers for the Beavers.
Wyoming East fell to Bluefield in that section championship forcing them to head to Chapmanville.
The Warriors and Tigers split the season series, Wyoming East falling at Chap,manville in the opener 39-38 (remember those) low score norms) and beating Chapmanville at home 42-39.
Wyoming East has been an up-and-down team, winning while scoring 84 in a game and winning when scoring 42 in a game.
The Warriors are 7-7 and it is imperative they get Tanner Whitten involved inside early and often against Chapmanville. But they will need a complete team game.
Whitten is averaging a team-best 17.6 points per game and he is capable of having a big night. He had six games of 20-p;lus and had six 3s in a win over Bluefield in the regular season. But he was limited to seven in his last outing against Bluefield. He had half of the Warriors points, 19, in the first meeting with Chapmanville and 17 in the other.
Chase York averaged 10.3 points on the season but had just five in two previous meetings with the Tigers. Garrett Mitchell averaged 10.3 points, Tucker Cook 8.1 and Chandler Johnson 5.4. Cook and Mitchell are both snipers from outside and the guard duo getting heated up from 3-point range will be a difference in making the state field or seeing the season end on the road.
Chapmanville is 7-6 and excels when the score is kept low. The Tigers have scored over 60 just twice.