ON THE MARK: State basketball tournament central: Column

Mark Martin
Mark Martin

While it was still different (basketball in late April/early May and an additional class), the return of state tournament basketball in West Virginia was refreshing to see.

And it was certainly nice to have some Jackson County flavor as Ravenswood’s girls were back in the final eight of Class AA for the first time since 2012.

There were plenty of nuggets of interest as the 46th annual girls state tournament took place.

Not to mention boys regional action across West Virginia.

IN THE HUNT: While it wasn’t the finish she had hoped for, it was great to see Ravenswood’s Annie Hunt wrap up her Ravenswood Red Devilette playing days at the state tournament.

Hunt, who endured a tough injury earlier in her career, gave it everything she had in the opening round loss to powerful Parkersburg Catholic.

What made things extra special for Hunt was getting to share the experience with her grandfather, Butch Varney, who was Ravenswood’s assistant.

Butch Varney put Ravenswood girls basketball on the map back in the day and led the program to a title in 1982.

It’s nice to know Hunt’s playing days are far from over. And, it’s also nice to know she will be again wearing the red and black.

Hunt moves on to Wheeling University of the Mountain East Conference to continue her career.

ROUSH SINGS: While Hunt was Ravenswood’s lone senior, so, too, was Lauren Roush of Ripley.

Though she didn’t get to compete in the state tournament, she did experience something great.

Roush sang the national anthem prior to the morning session games on Wednesday at the girls state tournament.

LADY WILDCATS: As Roush walked off the floor, the Nitro Lady Wildcats were on their bench awaiting their Class AAA opener.

They all congratulated Roush, who faced off with them during the regular season.

FROM CLOSE BY: Madonna girls head coach Cory Wingett grew up not far from Ravenswood in nearby Athens, Ohio.

Wingett played basketball and golf at Alexander High School.

His head basketball coach was Jay Reese, who grew up across the river from Ravenswood in Racine, Ohio, playing and later coaching at Southern.

ALWAYS A RED DEVIL: What a thrill to get to call the action (on the NFHS Network) of Calhoun County first-ever state tournament game.

The Lady Red Devils defeated River View easily in a Class A game and looked as though they had been there a million times.

Ravenswood High coaching legend Dick Sturm had to be proud.

Before becoming a long-time coach at Ravenswood, including 15 years guiding the football program, Sturm was a standout athlete at Calhoun County High under the great Wayne Underwood.

Sturm led Ravenswood to the Class AA state football championship game in 2010.

NAME GAME: River View, ironically, had a player on their team with the last name of Calhoun.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, have a player named Yeager.

While the spelling is different, Iaeger (Yay-gur) and old Big Creek High Schools consolidated to form River View, located in McDowell County.

LONNIE LUCAS: Huntington High entered as the new Class AAAA No. 1 seed.

The Highlanders are coached by Lonnie Lucas.

From my early days of broadcasting and writing games locally, I got to know Lucas.

In those days, he was the head boys basketball coach at old Huntington East.

Ripley once was in a conference (the PAC-6 and PAC-8) with the Huntington schools.

WHITE SHADOW: Former Red Devil basketball player Jason White once again had his Lady Mohigans of Morgantown in the state tournament, competing in the new Class AAAA.

White is an outstanding coach who has three state titles to his credit.

Better yet, he’s a great person.

His wife, the former Stephanie Swisher, is a Ripley native.

Stephanie Swisher works for WVU Athletics and closely with Bob Huggins’ Mountaineer men’s program.

MARION COUNTY SUCCESS: You have to love the success North Marion and Fairmont Senior have enjoyed in girls basketball while being just a few miles apart.

They both came in as the top two AAA teams.

North Marion is a consolidation of many schools back in the late ‘70s.

One of those is Mannington, where Ravenswood veteran boys basketball coach Mick Price starred as an athlete.

PANTHERS ON THE PROWL: Pikeview made it back to the state tournament, but this time with a new head coach.

Tracy Wyatt Raban took over this season for veteran Karen Miller.

The new Panther leader is married to former Ravenswood football standout Dana Raban.

Tracy Raban enjoyed a great high school career at Mercer Christian and then became a Hall of Famer at Glenville State College.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Many Ravenswood fans were thrilled the Devilettes made it to the state tournament.

And no one could have been any happier than Joe Varney.

He’s a former Red Devil player.

He’s also the son of Devilette assistant coach Butch Varney and standout Annie Hunt’s uncle.

And, he just happens to work in administration for the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center where the state tournament was staged.

I saw him earlier in the day before the Devilettes were set to play and he had a smile as wide as the mighty Ohio River.

Seeing Joe at this great basketball venue is always a treat. He is simply a great person.

LOUGH DOWN: Ripley High athletic director/trainer Steve Lough served as tournament director for Class AAA and Class A regional co-finals at Nitro and Wahama, respectively.