Ron Gregory

March 24, 2014

The boys state basketball tournament drew nice-sized crowds to the Charleston Civic Center, as folks were particularly pleased to see four straight days without icy precipitation in the capitol city.

There is no doubt there was tremendous excitement at the arrival of Chapmanville Regional High School for their first-ever appearance in the state big dance. CRHS was little competition for powerhouse Bluefield but, then, not much of anyone could compete with the Beavers this season. Bluefield simply dominated the competition, including Poca, the team many expected to see win the Class AA title.

CRHS and Poca represented what many believe is the top region in the state, Region IV. But, in the end, Bluefield was so overpowering there could be little argument that anyone else deserves the accolades they receive.

Nobody else controlled the games the way Coach Charles “Buster” Large and the Beavers did. They ran over Scott twice during the regular season, winning 82-59 in Mercer County and 76-64 at Madison. On both occasions, they were in full control for most of the contest as they rolled to a 22-2 overall season record. Both losses came on the road, at Greenbrier East and Westside.

CRHS did not give Bluefield much trouble, despite their overall 20-5 season mark. Legendary Kentucky/West Virginia Coach Allan Hatcher could not perform enough magic to make the game close. Bluefield led 15-7 at the end of the first quarter and moved out to a 34-13 margin at intermission. It only got worse.

Speaking after the loss, CRHS players described the trip to the state tourney as the “first step” in building a consistent tournament contender at Chapmanville.

For his part, Hatcher spoke of how “the community came together” to support his team.

Hatcher did not define “the community” nor did I ask to him to, since he prefers not to talk with me since I told the truth about him and his coaching son, Mark Hatcher of Logan. If I figured there was a point asking, I would have inquired of Allan Hatcher as to whether “the community” includes Chapmanville AND Harts or just Chapmanville.

Since Hatcher and others somehow think Chapmanville REGIONAL High School is really just Chapmanville High School, I doubt if he included Harts in the equation. CRHS is, actually, a consolidation of the former Sharples, Harts and Chapmanville highs. There is no more a Chapmanville High School today than there is a Harts High. I keep wondering why, instead of insisting that this was the “first-ever appearance by the Chapmanville High Tigers in the state tournament,” we didn’t hear, “this could be the first state championship for Harts High School since 1990.”

Oh yeah, discerning readers, I certainly do know WHY folks don’t say that but it is no more ludicrous than insisting CRHS and CHS are one and the same. They are not.

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Some have said I am attempting to separate the Harts and Chapmanville communities by pointing out that CRHS is not a continuation of Chapmanville High. I will repeat here what I have written on multiple occasions: nobody anywhere could have treated the Harts area students better than they have been treated in Chapmanville. By and large, “the community” actually DOES include both Harts and Chapmanville. But “Regional” was added to the Chapmanville name for a reason: because it is a consolidation and NOT Chapmanville High School. If it was, that name would still appear on the walls. It doesn’t.

When the state board of education effectively gave the Harts area high school students to Logan County, it was designed to accomplish two things. One was to keep a high school forever in Hamlin and the other was to avoid consolidation with Logan for Chapmanville. By adding the Harts students to CRHS and taking them from Lincoln, the powers-that-be determined that both communities (Hamlin and Chapmanville) would keep high schools in their towns, perhaps forever. The Harts students were integral to the creation of both schools: CRHS because those students were headed to Logan County and Lincoln County High because the Harts children would NOT make the treacherous trip to the county seat.

Anyone who cannot figure who the powerful politicians are that worked out this deal has never watched a moment of politics in West Virginia. BEFORE the state took control of Lincoln County schools, the state board recommended two high schools for Lincoln. After they assumed control, they built one in Hamlin and another in Chapmanville. It’s as simple as that.

I have no interest whatsoever in “dividing” the student body at CRHS. The attendance areas have melded together almost perfectly. I have said here, over and over, that I am partial toward Chapmanville and CRHS. But I will not cover-up the facts to the benefit of anybody. Both the Chapmanville and Harts communities need to be united behind THEIR school, but nobody should claim CRHS is, still, Chapmanville High. It simply is not.

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A seven-year-old school cannot play in its first state tournament in … as I said earlier, you pick it … 60, 70, 80 or 85 years. Since CHS doesn’t exist, why limit the time since they were there to just 85 years? Why not say it is the first state tournament appearance in 100 years; 200 years; or since 1776? Mark Martin tabbed it “85 years.” Why stop there?

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Credit should be given to Hatcher, the CRHS “community,” administration and fan base for the trip to Charleston, regardless of how one counts the appearance. While his off-court antics have often cost him dearly, there is no doubt Allan Hatcher is a phenomenal coach. He has earned the title “legendary” and deserves all the credit he can be given by Tiger fans everywhere.

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Sadness overwhelmed most of us who have watched and cheered for Charleston Catholic and Head Coach Bill McClanahan after the Class A championship loss to Wheeling Central on Saturday. McClanahan, a class act on and off the court, had announced his retirement at the end of this tournament. The Irish gave Central all it wanted in going into two overtimes, but in the end, the Maroon Knights prevailed.

It will be difficult to replace McClanahan. He is a great coach.

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On the subject of CRHS, I cannot defend the decision by Lincoln County School Superintendent Trish Lucas with regard to the state tournament. Lucas, who I must confess is a personal and professional friend, was wrong when she refused to allow students from Harts Middle School out of class to travel to Charleston Wednesday. While Harts Middle is physically located in Lincoln County, it and Chapmanville Middle (yes, it STILL exists) are feeder schools for CRHS.

When Logan Superintendent Phyllis Doty offered to provide bus transportation, entrance tickets, food and more for the Harts Middle Schoolers to root on THEIR high school, Lucas refused to let them out of classes. Harts Middle Principal Debbie Dingess even offered to take the students to the state capitol to make the visit “educational’ and Lucas still refused.

I do understand Lucas’s argument that the students have missed far too many instructional days due to inclement weather. Still, this WAS a way of bonding the two communities in support of their school. Lucas assured me she would not have allowed the students, under the same circumstances, to attend a state tournament appearance by Lincoln County High (can you imagine THAT ever happening?) and I certainly believe her. But Lincoln County High is NOT the high school for these students; CRHS is.

I know Lucas as honest, sincere and professional. I do believe she thinks her decision was right. I, and many others, do not agree. And I will still think highly of her.

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Meanwhile, Larry Dingess of Harts wants one and all to know he is circulating a petition to annex the Harts community into Logan County. That, he believes, would solve the problem of confusion about where Harts students REALLY belong. Anyone interested in knowing more can call Dingess at home, 304-855-7033 or on his cell, 304-784-0963.

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A recent trend appears to be putting players back on defense when one of their teammates is shooting free throws. In other words, there are no fellow players along the lines as Player A shoots; all four teammates are back on “defense.” Poca seems to have perfected the practice, although both Wheeling Central and Charleston Catholic used it extensively. While proponents say it cuts down on “cheap fouls” and allows the shooting team to get its defense fixed early, I find it strange in light of the fact that the team practicing it is giving up almost any shot at rebounding a missed free throw.

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Finally, while I am partial to Charleston Catholic, I could not help but grow nostalgic with the appearance of Notre Dame of Clarksburg in the state Single A tourney. While I got to see many of my favorite “old-time” coaches at the tournament last week, unfortunately I will never see legendary Notre Dame football Coach Ken Insani again in this life. My only “visits” with “Coach Ken” these days take place at his crypt just outside Clarksburg. He was a kind and gentle man, whose treatment of others was first-class in every way. He helped me often when I was unfamiliar with a North-central West Virginia team and his reports were always fair and accurate. I enjoyed his company immensely and never tired of speaking with him in person or on the phone. I considered him a positive role model and mentor.

I salute Hamlin’s legendary Coach Charles Elkins, who was once again in attendance at this year’s state tournament to continue his record-breaking attendance run. But I surely do miss my Clarksburg “buddy” and I thought of Coach Insani continuously as Notre Dame performed so well on the Civic Center floor. He was looking down proudly, I’m sure.

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Story ideas, rumors, game scores and just plain gossip are welcome. Use my email or call my cell at 304-533-5185. Again, this is not an invitation to debate the viewpoints in this column, although I appreciate the comments from all.