Devilettes end state tournament drought with appearance in 2021

Mark Martin
Special to the Jackson Star News
The Ravenswood Red Devilettes reached the 2021 West Virginia High School Girls State Basketball Tournament by defeating Buffalo in a Class AA regional. Pictured, left to right, are: Front row, Evelyn Stoneman, Marissa Smith, Lindsey Carroll, Annie Hunt, Lydia Alfred, Libby Hall and Sami Maxson; second row, assistant coach Butch Varney, Brooke Meadows, Avery Cole, Hadleigh McGoskey, Maci Mosser, Emma Wratchford, Miranda Barker, Brooklyn Adams and head coach Cara Williams.

After missing out on state tournament action for eight straight years, Cara Williams was happy to return in 2021 as Ravenswood’s head girls basketball coach.

Her Devilettes punched a ticket into the eight-team field of Class AA with a crazy, 14-11, win over Buffalo in a Region IV co-final (see story elsewhere on sports pages).

Ravenswood, as the No. 8 seed, was slated to play Parkersburg Catholic, the No. 1 seed, in a state tournament Class AA quarterfinal round game on Tuesday inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. (The game story will appear in the upcoming issue of The Jackson Herald).

There were many pleasing aspects for Williams with this particular state tournament trip.

At the top of the list was doing so with her former high school head coach, Butch Varney.

It was Varney who put Ravenswood Red Devilette basketball on the map in the early ‘80s.

The coaching legend guided Ravenswood to a Class AA state championship in 1982.

Varney has worked with Williams the past few seasons as an assistant. His granddaughter, Annie Hunt, is the team’s top player and lone senior.

“I feel like I have come full-circle, especially with Butch,” Williams said.

As a player for Varney, Williams (then Cara Starkey) and the Devilettes played in the Class AA state tournament her junior year of 1991 when girls basketball was still staged in the fall months.

“Sometimes we think we share a brain,” Williams said laughing while discussing her close bond with Varney. “We come to practice and one of us will say, ‘You know, I was thinking.’ And inevitably the other will say, ‘I was thinking the same thing.' We connect very well together. I think we balance each other out.

“If he gets fired up, I’m calm. If I maybe get fired up, he’s the calm one. It’s a really neat experience to be able to coach with him after playing for him. I have learned a lot from him because he has such great experience. I rely on him a lot for things I’m unsure about. It’s been a really fun thing.”

And making it to the state tournament is icing on the cake.

“We have had a really good year despite all the craziness that has come with this year,” said Williams referring to COVID-19. “We’ve got a young group that is pretty talented. This group has a lot of desire to get better every day.”

The leader of the group is Hunt.

“She’s a great, great kid,” Williams said of Hunt, who will play college ball at Wheeling University next season. “Yes, she’s a really good ball player, but she is a great kid. She always wants what’s best for the group. And it doesn’t matter if that necessarily benefits her or not.

“She’s just a genuinely nice person. It’s been really fun. She has really kind of come into her own this year. She has been more vocal. She’s always been a little bit quiet, but she’s really come out of her shell. She was always a little bit reluctant to say anything. She’s found her voice this year. She explains stuff to the younger ones.

“She is a great ball-handler and has great range from the 3-pont line. She is a really good passer. She can take it to the hole. She is just a very unselfish player.”

Hunt has been joined this season in the starting lineup by the likes of Libby Hall, a junior, Lindsey Carroll, a junior, Maci Mossor, a freshman, and Hadleigh McGoskey, another ninth-grader.

“Libby is a strong guard offensively. She has good range. She can really light it up when she gets hot. She also brings a lot of size and strength on the defensive end. She can play the five if we need her to. And she can guard bigger players if we need her to. She has been our leading shot blocker.”

Of Carroll, Williams said, “She has really good size. She is really a good communicator on the defensive end. She has a nice mid-range jumper. She can stretch the defense.”

Williams is looking forward to having Mossor and McGoskey for three more years.

“Maci is a really good defender. She is a scrappy player. She reminds me a little bit of myself in what she does. She doesn’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet. But she’s just one of those kids you just don’t want to take off the floor.

“Her worth is not in the points she scores. It’s not in any one particular area. She just does a lot of things extremely well. She’s just really, really scrappy.

“Hadleigh has really good ball-handling skills. She has a high basketball IQ. She can shoot the 3. She gets some arch on that ball and it brings rain. She’s a pesky defender and brings endless energy. She harasses other team’s best offensive guard.”

Another freshman is Emily Wratchford, who has been the first player off the bench this season.

“She has good range and can shoot the three. She can take it to the hole. She has a knack for finding seams in the defense. She is very good at drawing contact and going to the line.”

Junior Marissa Smith, sophomores Sami Maxson and Evelyn Stoneman and freshmen Miranda Barker, Brooklyn Adams, Avery Cole and Brooke Meadows have brought plenty to the program this season and are key ingredients to the future success of Devilette basketball.

The third state tournament appearance was against a team Ravenswood had seen during the regular season in Catholic, a Little Kanawha Conference rival.

The first two times Williams was in Charleston for the state tournament the opposition came out of Wyoming County.

“We played Baileysville when I was a player. Then when I took my first team (in her first season at the helm) to the state tournament in 2012 we played Westside (formed by Baileysville and Oceana),” Williams said. “That was kind of ironic.”

She has wonderful memories from her playing days and that state tournament game as a junior.

“I just remember being on the floor. Just the whole experience. All the pomp and circumstance leading up to it. All the excitement at school.”

She’s instilled in her current team what it all means.

“We’ve tried to make it special and do things for them like dinners with parents,” she said. “We just want the whole experience to be special.”

While emphasizing that other teams who didn't reach the final destination of the season would love to be in their shoes.

“It’s not guaranteed,” Williams said. “You’re not guaranteed to get back there. You have to make the most of it. You hope to get back there every year, but you just never know.

“So when the opportunity comes you want to make it special.”

And being involved in athletics with the red and black for many, many years either as a player or coach has indeed been special for Cara Williams.