0310_class a girls

Huntington St. Joe’s bench players celebrate during the final seconds of the West Virginia high school girls basketball Class A championship game against Parkersburg Catholic on, March 9 at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in Charleston.

HUNTINGTON — Huntington St. Joe will not win another girls Class A basketball state championship in 2021.

Not that the Irish aren’t going to win a state title, but if they do it will be in Class AA.

The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission released its new four-class alignment for boys and girls basketball on Tuesday. The alignment will take effect beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

In great part, the reorganization was to help Class A public school teams have a better chance at a state title. Fifteen of the last 16 small-school girls state championships were won by Catholic schools, with St. Joe capturing nine. Wheeling Central won three, Parkersburg Catholic two and Charleston Catholic one. Gilmer County beat St. Joe 42-41 in 2016 to become the only public school to win a title during that stretch.

Catholic schools captured 15 of the last 18 Class A boys championships, with Wheeling Central winning eight, Charleston Catholic three and Parkersburg Catholic, Weirton Madonna, Huntington St. Joe and Clarksburg Note Dame one apiece. Public schools Tug Valley, Magnolia and Webster County won one apiece during that time.

Huntington St. Joe athletic director and girls basketball coach Shannon Lewis said he is fine with his school’s basketball programs being reclassified as Class AA and hinted that the girls might even move higher if given the option.

“I’m fine with it,” Lewis said. “There’s a chance you’ll be allowed to move up and we’ll take that into consideration and look for the next two years at possibly moving up to AAA on the girls side.”

The new classifications take into account not just a school’s enrollment, which long has been the standard, but also its proximity to a county seat, as well as the economy and population of the area in which a school is located.

“It was voted on and that’s what they’re going to,” Lewis said. “I don’t disapprove of it. I’m OK with it.”

Most Huntington-area schools will reside in the newly created Class AAAA. Cabell Midland, Huntington High, Hurricane and Spring Valley are among the 29 teams in that class. All schools from the Mountain State Athletic Conference are in Class AAAA.

Huntington High boys coach Ty Holmes said the change makes no difference to him and his team.

“I took the job to impact these young men,” Holmes said. “The four-class basketball system doesn’t impact me or our program. We will continue to teach our guys hard work, good character and to be good young men, along with learning to play basketball the right way.”

Holmes said no matter the classification, teams still have to go play.

“That’s just the way I do things and I figure if I do things the right way and stick to it then the wins will take care of themselves.”

Class AAA also features 29 teams, including area squads Winfield, Lincoln County, Point Pleasant, Wayne and Logan.

Twenty-nine teams are in Class AA, including Huntington St. Joe, Poca, Mingo Central and Buffalo.

Class A includes 37 teams, with Tolsia, Man, Wahama, Tug Valley and Hannan among them.

Lewis said he figures the change was prompted by consternation with private schools dominating Class A.

“I’m sure there’s a little bit of that to do with it,” Lewis said. “Due to consolidation throughout the state, a lot of those strong (single-A) schools ended up in AA. A lot of the single-A schools are out in the country where there aren’t a lot of students. I understand it.”

Lewis said he doesn’t know if the system will work, but is glad that another two teams will go home with state championship trophies.

“I think there should have been something done,” Lewis said. “I don’t know what the answer is. Some people are really happy and some are not so happy. I hope it works out and we’ll see how it goes.”

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