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Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • Red Devil cagers of '93 ended State Tournament drought

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  • RAVENSWOOD – The game still dances in the mind of many as though it ended a few short minutes ago.
    For those in attendance that day, Mick Price jumping up in the air pumping his fist is still vivid.
    His Ravenswood Red Devils had just knocked off Wheeling Central in come-from-behind fashion on St. Patrick's Day 1993 in the opening round of the Class AA phase of the West Virginia Boys State High School Basketball Tournament.
    Do the math from that 53-52 win back then to now and you realize it has been a fast-paced 20-year span.
    The win was not only thrilling, it was historic. It ended the school's futility in State Tournament play.
    Until that day, Ravenswood was winless in the Mountain State's Big Dance, dating back to the school's first-ever trip to a State Tournament in 1950.
    "It just seemed like every year we met one of the state's better teams (in the old round robin format)," said Price. "There was no seeding back then."
    Besides being Ravenswood's first-ever win, the victory was made even sweeter due to the opposition.
    Central had prevented Ravenswood from making it to the State Tournament in 1983 in a regional championship game at Parkersburg's Memorial Fieldhouse.
    Then in 1986 at the State Tournament, the Maroon Knights throttled the Red Devils by 48 points (which still stands as a record for margin of victory).
    A bit of revenge, no doubt.
    That was a great team," said Price of the one his '93 squad.
    While it was nothing like the 1986 debacle, Central took control of the game early on making it look as though the Red Devils would be one-and-done once more in Charleston. Central led after the opening eight minutes, 16-8, and extended its advantage to 29-15 by the break.
    The Red Devils refused to quit.
    Ravenswood outscored the Knights in the third period, 19-13, to get within eight heading into the final quarter. And in that last eight minutes of play the Devils showed confidence and poise in outscoring Central by a 19-10 margin to preserve the victory.
    Senior Brad Hunt knocked down two free throws in the final minute and Ravenswood hung on for the program's first victory at the Civic Center Coliseum.
    Fellow senior Ryan Varney, who at the time became the school's all-time scoring leader, led Ravenswood with 22 points in the win. Joseph Perich, who lived with the Varney family that season as a foreign exchange student, scored 12 as did Hunt. The senior-laden Devils also got scoring from Jason Balis, who had four, while Todd Pillo and Kenny Chambers each added two.
    Two days later on semifinal Friday, Ravenswood came ever so close to winning yet another State Tournament game and moving on to the AA championship contest. But the Devils lost a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching 39-38 decision in overtime to ultimate champ Bridgeport.
    Page 2 of 2 - Unlike the Central game, Ravenswood gained the early lead. The Devil surged ahead 10-0 in the opening eight minutes of play before Bridgeport rebounded for the quarter's final four points. Ravenswood was up 21-16 at halftime.
    Bridgeport outscored Ravenswood 12-8 in the third and 8-7 in the fourth to force overtime.
    Hunt hit a five-foot baseline jumper to tie the game at 35-all and later nailed a free throw with 35 seconds remaining to give the Devils a 36-35 lead.
    Matt Kerns, the son of Bridgeport head coach Bill Kerns, was fouled on the Indians final possession of the game and went to the free throw line with the chance to tie and subsequently win the game. He hit his first free throw, but missed the second giving the Devils new life.
    Ravenswood gained the first edge in overtime when Varney hit a pair of free throws putting the Devils up, 38-36.
    But with time winding down, Kerns, with ice water in his veins, drained a 3-pointer giving the Indians the thrilling win.
    "We had a good team with a lot of nice players," said Price.
    The following day at the Civic Center Coliseum, Bridgeport defeated Oceana for the AA title.
    Varney led Ravenswood with 19 points and would be named to the All-Tournament team and later earned Class AA First Team All-State for a second straight year.
    "Bridgeport had a great team, but I still feel as though that game should have never gotten to overtime. Our team had a lot of good players. After beating Central I really thought we had a chance (to win the state title)," said Price, who has since led Ravenswood to AA crowns in 2006 and 2009.
    While the Bridgeport loss still stings in Price's memory bank, he thinks fondly of that Red Devil team from 20 years ago. At the time, it accomplished something no other team in school history had ever done before.
    There's no question that by ending the drought it helped take some pressure off future State Tournament teams.

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