For the first time ever, no fewer than six Region D squads will appear in the Group A Final Four which tips off today. The Southwest Virginia delegation is diverse, including throwback state championship traditions as well as complete newcomers to state bracket play.
The Lee High girls, who wrap up today’s action in a 9 p.m. Division 2 semifinal clash with Lancaster, are making their second consecutive appearance on Virginia Commonwealth University’s home floor under coach Stephanie Ward. The Ben Hur program made its Final Four debut last season.
The Lady Generals (17-9), who fell to Floyd County in last year’s semifinals, are led by Jalan McPherson (15.2 points per game) and Makenzie Cluesman (14.8 ppg). The Lady Devils (19-1) are fired up by 6-foot senior post Andrea White, who averages a remarkable 27 points, 17 rebounds and five assists per game.
The Appalachia boys, who play Altavista in a 5 p.m. Division 1 semifinal game, are making their first trip to the Final Four since winning the Group A state crown under Gary Holloman in 1972. Bulldogs coach Pat Jervis coached the Appalachia girls to a state championship in the fall of 2000.
The Bulldogs (23-5) are headlined by gifted guard Forrest Stuart (17.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and muscular 6-7 post Mladen Bogicevic (14 ppg, 8.5 rpg). Making their second consecutive Final Four appearance, the Colonels (17-5) are led by perimeter bomber Mike Poindexter (15.5 ppg) and Jerrell Jordan, a double-double threat in the post.
Appalachia faces the prospect of a state championship game rematch with Region D champion Castlewood, which is making its first-ever Final Four appearance. The Blue Devils, who went to the quarterfinals as a Division 2 team under coach Wayne Rasnick last year, face Madison County in a Division 1 semifinal at 1 p.m.
Castlewood (23-4) is anchored by Ruben Rasnick (12 ppg, 8 rpg), Zach Bush (10 ppg, 9 rpg), Justin Smith (10 ppg), Seth Justice and Devin Puckett. Pegged as the Division 1 favorite, the Mountaineers (24-0) went 10-0 versus Group AA opponents this season and have gone 40-0 in the regular season over the past two seasons.
Achieving their second consecutive state tournament season under coach Mike Goforth, the unbeaten J.I. Burton girls have the distinction of carrying an Associated Press No. 1 ranking into the program’s first-ever Final Four. They clash with Riverheads in a Division 1 semifinal at 11 a.m.
The Lady Raiders (27-0) are paced by mighty Ra’Shelle Miller (20.7 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 3.2 apg). Strong supporting roles are played by Brianna Stallard, Chelsey Forney, Iris Hill and the singularly relentless defensive centerpiece Sheniqua Woods. The Gladiators (18-3) are paced by Kelsie Floyd (10.4 ppg), Rebecca Grubb (10.4 ppg) and 6-0 post Brittany Heiser (10.1 ppg, 5 rpg).
Region D’s state tournament ingenues are the Division 1 Ervinton girls, who are visiting the state capital in the school’s first-ever state tournament basketball appearance. Coach Jason Edwards is in charge.
Led by the unsinkable senior Kelly Rasnick (20 ppg, 11 rpg) and junior guard Chelsea Hill (14 ppg), the Lady Rebels (24-4) face Surry County (20-4) at 3 p.m. Led by RaeChaun Edwards (17 ppg), four of the Cougars’ starting five average double-figure scoring.
The Lebanon boys, who are slated for a 10:30 a.m. Division 2 clash with Buckingham County on Friday, are making their first Final Four appearance since winning the Group A crown under Rick Thompson in 1991.
Coached by Thad Lambert, the Pioneers (20-5) rely on Jerome Cobb, Andrew Jessee, Ben Hendrickson, Justin Brown and defensive stopper Robert Jones. Taylor Boyers, Tarian Ayers and Kevin Bolden pace the Knights (20-3).
John Moorehouse and Bill Lane will be blogging live from the VHSL Final Four in Richmond this week. Follow the Region D teams in action as it happens on www.timesnews.net.