By TRACY WATSON
For The Intelligencer
CHARLESTON - A pair of teams with completely different recent state tournament resumes will hook up in a first-round matchup at 1 this afternoon, for the right to advance to the West Virginia Class AA girls state semifinals on the court at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.
While both second-seeded Scott (23-2) and No. 7 Oak Glen (18-7) have been tournament regulars the last four seasons, it is the Skyhawks who have played in the last two state championship games while the Golden Bears have bowed out in the first round twice in the last three campaigns.
In each of the past two tournaments Scott has fallen victim to national powerhouse Summers County. However, the Hawks did get a little bit of revenge earlier this season, snapping Summers County's 105-game winning streak, which had been best in the nation.
Meanwhile, Oak Glen dropped a 40-30 decision to Tolsia in the 2010 quarterfinals and was slammed 71-37 by Summers in 2009.
This season, Coach Scott Wiley directed his team to a 54-46 victory against Point Pleasant in the regional to punch its ticket, while John Porter's Scott squad dropped Hoover, 70-36, to advance.
For the Golden Bears, dealing with the Skyhawks means dealing with state Player of the Year and West Virginia University recruit, Makenzie White.
White has been phenomenal during her four-year career, scoring more than 2,000 points, earning second team all-state honors as a freshman and first team as a sophomore and junior.
The 5-foot-9 senior standout, who is assured of a third consecutive first team selection, averages 20.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.8 assists, four steals and 1.4 blocks a night and is coming off a triple-double in regional with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Not only have the Skyhawks compiled a 79-21 record and two trips to the state finals in her career, they have also not finished ranked lower than third in the state at the end of the regular season.
After White, Scott turns into a young team with three sophomores who have been great contributors for Porter. Ali Whitman, at 6-2, had a double-double in the regional while classmate Julie Conway led the team with 17 points. Jaimee Dotson, who tallied nine points, is also a valuable commodity.
Scott's losses have both been by a four points, coming in a revenge setback to Summers County in early February (58-54) and to Chapmanville, 54-50, earlier in mid-January, the game before their huge streak-snapping victory.
"I really don't know a whole lot about them, but we are busy trying to track down some information," Wiley said. "We do know that they have the White girl that is going to West Virginia and that she is such a strong player.
"But when you get down to the final eight teams anything can happen. I know it is big to get one of those top two seeds, but after that I really don't believe the seeds mean a whole lot."
Oak Glen will counter with its own dynamic duo in senior Fairmont State recruit Payden Eckleberry and sophomore sensation Vanessa Hissam. Eckleberry, who collected 21 points, eight assists and five steals in a regional victory, will be making her third trip to Charleston in her stellar career.
Hissam had a huge night against the Big Blacks in the regional with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Amy Webster added seven points and seven caroms in the victory.
Eckleberry averages 17 points, seven assists and five steals a game while Hissam added 12 points and 10 rebounds and Webster chips in eight points and eight boards a contest.
Rounding out the starting five is juniors Casey Patterson and Alex Burch while sophomore Karly Wiley and freshman Jessica Stivason will be the first two off the bench and could play a pivotal part.
"We had three big wins to put us in this position so far against Magnolia, Tyler Consolidated and Point Pleasant," Wiley added. "Normally we don't win by a whole lot of points, but the girls just seem to go out and get the job done and find ways to win.
"Our kids are so excited about his opportunity. We figure that not many people down the way know a lot about us, but we are going to go down there and see what we can do."
The Golden Bears will be looking for their first state girls basketball championship since cutting the down the nets in 1999.