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Aiming To Finish What They Started

2020 state bound teams have added motivation

Photo by Cody Tomer Wheeling Park’s D.J. Saunders and the Patriots are aiming to get back to the state tournament after its cancellation last year.

With winter sports practices almost a week in the books, West Virginia basketball teams are looking forward to getting back on the court to play a game.

When that time comes, it would be close to a year since the news broke that the state tournament was not going to continue because of the Coronavirus.

In 2020, four local teams punched their ticket down to state, but three never had a chance to compete for the hardware.

The Wheeling Park, Magnolia and Wheeling Central boys never had the opportunity to tipoff which gives each team extra motivation to get back to Charleston in 2021.

Wheeling Park advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2012 and return a handful of players from 2020’s team.

“I think we have 10 or 11 players from last year that won the regional championship,” Wheeling Park boys coach Michael Jebbia said. “They’re excited.

“A lot of the guys were part of the team. We’re just going to try to approach each game one game at a time. For our seniors, they were in the heat of the moment in all those games last year. We can’t really control what happened the last 11 months, so no sense dwelling on it and move forward.”

In Class A, Wheeling Central and Magnolia punched their tickets to Charleston. While the Maroon Knights earned the right to play for a state title for the 12th straight year, it was COVID-19 that forced them to not even step foot on the court in the Charleston Civic Center.

“I think those guys that are coming back, that’s something that will motivate them to try and get back down there,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “And hopefully we’re able to play a full regular and post season.”

For the Blue Eagles, it was the first time they won a regional title since 2016. Magnolia coach Dave Tallman was excited for his squad to get back to work.

“I said, ‘I missed you guys,'” Tallman said. “And they all started smiling because we just haven’t been together. So, it was just really great to get back in there and get to work. We stayed a little longer. We practiced for three hours because of anticipation of (Thursday). We had a lot of emphasis on shooting. I just thought getting shots up was a priority.”

On the girls side, Wheeling Central actually made the trip to Charleston and even played in the quarterfinals but fell to Gilmer County.

However, that same day, the state tournament was suspended, then later canceled.

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