Putnam County fans flood stands with sea of red
CHARLESTON -- There might not have been too much activity happening in between Huntington and Charleston on Wednesday morning.
That's because it seemed as though all of Putnam County was on-hand for the West Virginia Boys Basketball State Tournament in the Charleston Civic Center.
The crowds for both Hurricane and Poca were extensive and had plenty to cheer about as the Redskins moved on to the Class AAA semifinals with a win over South Charleston and the Dots advanced to the Class AA semifinals with a win against Fairmont Senior.
Poca head coach Allen Osborne said he had mixed emotions about the All-Putnam county victory because of his his close relationship with South Charleston coach Vic Herbert, who was his assistant for two years, but he was excited for Putnam County towns and communities experiencing success at the state tournament level.
"It's a great week for Putnam County basketball," Osborne said. "We play pretty good basketball. You look at the schools down there and all four high schools have been in the state tournament and have good programs."
Hurricane's 63-47 win over South Charleston was the Redskins' first-ever state tournament victory in school history -- a major sense of pride among the players.
As the seconds counted down on the clock, Hurricane's student section known as the Crazy Canes began jumping up and down, unleashing the true essence of school spirit that the state tournament is all about.
"It's the second time in school history we've made it to the state tournament and to win in the quarterfinals and advance to the semifinals in our second year is amazing," Hurricane guard Trey Dawson said. "It's a great community booster as well. I know we are going to have just as good a crowd in the next game and we'll have the same intensity we had this game."
Osborne said Putnam County's pride in its teams gives an added incentive to the players as they represent their schools.
"Our community and our students have been great all year," Osborne said. "I think we brought six buses today. That's the thing about these guys. They want to represent our community and represent our school in a positive way. They've done a great job with it and we just really appreciate the support because it's really been amazing."
Hurricane's upset of No. 2 seed South Charleston clinched the Redskins' second-straight 20-win season and sets them up for a 9 p.m. Friday semifinal matchup against the Hedgesville-Parkersburg South winner.
Poca pushed its winning streak to 23 games and advanced to take on Bluefield in Friday's first semifinal - a highly-anticipated 9:30 a.m. contest between the young Dots and the defending state champion Beavers, who feature several veterans.
It should make for an exciting Friday of hoops action on Friday with a definitive Putnam County flavor.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE FRESHMEN: Poca's tandem of Luke Frampton and Elijah Cuffee certainly didn't have a case of the freshman jitters during their first taste of the state tournament.
Both players showed the poise of veterans to lead the Dots in a 55-40 win over Fairmont Senior.
Frampton finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks while hitting eight of 12 shots from the floor.
Cuffee added 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting as well for the Dots, meaning the two freshmen accounted for 34 of Poca's 55 points while shooting at a combined 70 percent clip (14-of-20).
PROTECT THE ROCK: Bluefield's defense smothered Chapmanville in a Class AA first-round matchup Wednesday morning.
The Beavers forced 25 turnovers -- 15 of which came in the first half as Bluefield jumped out to a 34-13 lead.
In that first half, Bluefield held a 21-0 advantage in points off turnovers -- the same margin as their lead. The Beavers had just two turnovers prior to halftime.
The difference? Experience at the Charleston Civic Center.
Bluefield is the defending state champion and has played in the Class AA title game in two consecutive years while Chapmanville was making its first-ever trip to Charleston.
Grant Traylor is a sports reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2759, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.