Boys have ground to make up

boys’ high school basketball has never been dominant in this area. But things change.
Ever since 1959, when the state of West Virginia began having three separate state championships for Class AAA, AA, and A, the North Central Athletic Conference has had little success at the state level.
During that time, the NCAC has had only two state champions (Fairmont Senior 1996 and North Marion 1999). Even worse is that the three area schools, Preston, University, and Morgantown have never even been to the big game.
Being new to the area, I found it surprising that the local schools had never won a state championship, especially with all the success that they have in all the other sports.
This year shows the domination that the NCAC has had over the state in all sports, but for some reason, not in boys’ basketball.
Sports in which an NCAC school has either won or been runner-up for the state championship, during 2007, are as follows: girls’ basketball (MHS), girls’ cross country (UHS), golf (UHS runner-up), girls’ soccer (Fairmont Senior runner-up), boys’ swimming (Fairmont Senior), girls’ swimming (MHS), boys’ tennis (MHS runner-up), girls’ track (PHS), and wrestling (East Fairmont runner-up).
For one reason or another, boy’s basketball in this region has struggled on the larger stage. But, with the departure of some big names in other conferences and the return of some big names in the NCAC, this could be the year that area basketball gets on the map.
Automatically, I would have to assume that there will be a new champion this year. But, don’t quote me on that.
After three-time defending champ Huntington lost its top six players, including USC star O.J. Mayo, it would be very difficult to see them bounce back.
Teams hoping to be up to the task of bringing a state championship to the conference will include Morgantown, Preston and University.
Last season, all three schools put on dominating performances as none of them recorded double digits losses on the year.
But, all of them fell short in the end. This year, the schools may have just the right pieces returning to finish the job.
The Hawks will be returning six letterman from a team that started out the season 15-0 last year. The Knights will be returning eight letterman, including six seniors, and may have one of the tallest teams in the state. Plus, the Mohigans should be starting the season as one of the highest-ranked teams in the state and will be led by coach Tom Yester, who is on the verge of his 500th career victory.
What may be the biggest problem that the NCAC faces this year is that they will all be playing each other so much and that they all make the playoffs. When that happens, lesser teams tend to find ways to win because they start to understand how to counter the better teams’ strengths.
Last year is a terrific example, as Fairmont Senior found a way to upset PHS in the sectional playoffs.
This year, it will take a gutsy performance by any school hoping to capture a state title for the conference but this may be the year that the cards are all laid out just right.
With the season getting ready to kick off, excitement is in the air, and if all works out right, for once all that excitement may be rewarded.