On the Mark: Ravenswood vs. Ripley basketball competition still thrives: Column

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers
Mark Martin

While Jim Dagostine coached just one season of boys basketball at Ripley High School, it registers to this day of being as fulfilling as anything he’s done throughout his coaching life.

And this is a guy who had a soccer complex at Hurricane High School named in his honor this past August.

In the 1977-78 high school basketball season, in which Dagostine led Ripley to an impressive 14-7 record (three losses came to a dynamite Point Pleasant team), what stands out the most are the two rivalry games with Ravenswood.

“I’ve been a lot of places, but that rivalry was as good as anything I was ever a part of in my coaching days,” said Dagostine, who still assists with the soccer program at Hurricane High. “You couldn’t have put one more person in either gym.”

Not much has changed.

The 77-78 campaign was the late Jack Wiseman’s last as Ravenswood’s coach as he headed off to Ripley the following year to work in administration. “Jack became a great friend,” Dagostine said.

Taking over the Ravenswood program in the 1978-79 season was a young Mick Price. The energetic Price has remained a constant presence in the hardwood rivalry of Jackson County’s two high schools as he is now involved in season No. 44 at the helm.

The late Frank Marino, one of Ripley’s all-time winningest football coaches, became the new leader of the Viking basketball program from Dagostine the same season. He coached the Vikings for three years and won five rivalry showdowns.

The most recent boys basketball battle between Ravenswood and Ripley was staged right after Christmas at the Old Gymnasium’s Mick Price Court — home of the Red Devils. And after attendance was limited a season ago due to COVID-19, the matchup resembled that of all the years past.

“It was a great game, with a great atmosphere,” said Ravenswood assistant Bryan Canterbury. “It seemed different being the first game after no Hatchet game (for football) or hearing a Hatchet cheer.”

The Hatchet game was one of West Virginia’s fiercest on the football field. But it was put on the shelf, at least temporarily, following the 2020 contest due to the size difference in schools. Ripley is Class AAA in football; Ravenswood is Class A.

Price felt the disappearance of the football game also added another layer to the basketball rivalry, coupled with last season's COVID situation.

“It was a packed house. Both teams played well,” Price said. “As a coach, you just coach. But I think our kids appreciated the opportunity to play in an environment like that. There was a minimal number of fans in the stands last season.

“I heard one of our players say, ‘This is what I always wanted to do,' in referring to the place being full.”

Ravenswood jumped out to a 17-10 lead in the first quarter and managed to pull out a 62-57 victory.

“Our kids made some plays early on,” Price said.

As Price coached in yet another Ravenswood-Ripley basketball rivalry classic, it marked the first for new Viking head coach Derek Mullins.

The former Ripley standout became the ninth different head coach Price has faced off with in the series, dating back to that 1978-79 season.

In addition to Marino and now Mullins, Price has also squared off with Kent Kennedy, Dan Barnette, the late Craig Harmon, Randy Anderson, Evan Faulkner, Luke Parsons and Kevin Harris.

Mullins’ father, Steve, was a junior starter on the Ripley team of 1978-79 when Price first entered the series.

“I’ve always thought the world of Steve,” said Price. “We had a lot in common, both in coaching and going to Fairmont State.”

Steve Mullins played baseball at Fairmont State and then returned to Ripley and was a fixture in both the boys basketball and baseball programs.

“Steve was a great coach,” Price said. “And he was a really good basketball player.”

Price thinks the sky is the limit for his son as Ripley’s head coach.

“He’ll be a great coach,” Price said.  “He was an excellent player at Ripley. He knows the game. And a lot of that comes from Steve.”

Derek Mullins graduated from Ripley in 2011. He excelled in both basketball and baseball and was named the school’s Male Athlete of the Year. He went on to play baseball at West Virginia State before launching his teaching and coaching careers.

Mullins spent three years as an assistant to Parsons, his first cousin, before taking over as head coach.

His first rivalry game with Ravenswood in the head coaching seat brought back a lot of memories.

“I got cold chills,” Mullins admitted. “We didn’t have anything like this last season because of COVID. When we came out on the floor you heard the same music. The Ravenswood fans booed us, just like when I played. It was a good atmosphere.”

Mullins said as a player or coach, the Ravenswood-Ripley basketball showdown is something one lives to be involved with from a playing or coaching perspective.

“I always enjoying going to The Pit (another name for Ravenswood’s home venue). I’ll never forget my games there,” Mullins said. “In my years playing, home or away, I only lost to Ravenswood once in four years.”

As Ripley’s new head coach, Mullins said it is his desire to keep the rivalry as strong as ever.

The first meeting of the season certainly provided the type of thrills fans have grown accustomed to since the beginning of this wonderful series.

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Ravenswood’s win was its first over the Vikings since 2018.

The Devil program leads the series, 89-70.

Ripley went 15-1 from 2010-2020.

Ravenswood owned a 15-5 advantage from 2010-2020.

The ‘90s were fairly even while Ripley dominated the ‘80s and Ravenswood the ‘70s.

After Ravenswood opened with its 17-10 first quarter lead, Ripley narrowed the gap by outscoring the Devils in the second (14-12) and third (19-17). Ravenswood produced 16 points in the final quarter while the Vikings scored 14.

Matthew Carte took game-scoring honors with 21 to pace Ravenswood’s offensive attack. He also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Shawn Banks was also in double figures for the Red Devils with 13. Banks came up with two rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win.

Ashton Miller had eight points, led the team with seven rebounds, dished out two assists, came up with two steals and blocked a shot.

Beau Bennett and Drew Hunt added six points each while Blake Ball and Logan Alfred both scored four points.

Ripley was led by Luke Johnson and Isaiah Casto. The two ended the night with 12 points each. Brady Anderson and Cade Goode both scored 10.

Dylan Casto had eight for the Vikings and Joey Ramsey rounded out the scoring with five.

Johnson and Ramsey each had five rebounds. Johnson blocked two shots for the Vikings.

Isaiah Casto had three assists and two steals.

Ravenswood was 19-of-35 from the field. The Devils were 4-of-14 from the 3-point line (Bennett had two while Carte and Hunt knocked down one each). Ravenswood was 20-of-30 at the free throw line.

Ripley hit 17-of-32 shots from the field. The Vikings made good on 5-of-8 attempts from behind the arc (Dylan Casto had two with Ramsey, Good and Isaiah Casto each hitting one). Ripley was 8-of-15 at the line.

“They kept getting to the basket,” said Mullins of Ripley. “Then they would stop-jump and kick it out. It just didn’t go as planned.”

But as Mullins and Price both know, there will be a second meeting.

Round two will take place on the Vikings home court. The Ripley Health Center showdown is slated for Feb. 22 as this great West Virginia high school basketball rivalry lives on.