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Area teams face familiar foes with region titles, state tournament spots on the line

MORGANTOWN — It’s do-or-die time in the W.Va. girls’ basketball playoffs as region co-finals will be played this week to decide which eight teams will make the trip to Charleston for the state tournament.

In Monongalia County, local teams are facing familiar foes as they battle for regional championships.

Trinity Christian hosts Frankfort in a Class AA Region II co-final on Wednesday at 7 p.m. 

It’s a situation all too familiar for the Warriors (18-5) as this is the fourth straight year they have hosted Frankfort in the region championship. The Falcons (4-14) won all three previous meetings.

“We hope it ends differently,” Trinity coach Mike Baldy said.

Seniors Jenna Barnett and Ella Lynch suffered through all three of those losses to Frankfort and now have one final chance to get past the Falcons and make it to Charleston.

“Jenna and Ella need to have a refuse-to-lose mentality,” Baldy said. “(Frankfort’s) record doesn’t show how good they are.”

Behind Barnett and Lynch is a young Trinity team made up of mostly freshmen. Despite that, Baldy said the team’s young players have latched on to Barnett and Lynch and want to make it to Charleston just as badly as they do.

“We sensed that a little when we played at Frankfort (earlier this season),” Baldy said. “Only four girls had been through not beating Frankfort but still in that locker room after the game there was excitement.”

The Warriors defeated the Falcons in a regular-season contest earlier this month, 43-40, at Frankfort. 

“That three points isn’t comfortable,” Baldy said. 

In the previous years, Baldy said Trinity went into these games feeling like they had nothing to lose against Frankfort. The roles have reversed for this meeting.

“It’s just a unique situation,” he said. “I’m as anxious and nervous leading into this as any game I’ve ever coached. This year we have everything to lose.”

On the other side of town, there will be another repeat from last season as University hosts rival Morgantown in a Class AAAA Region I co-final on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Hawks (14-10) hosted the Mohigans (15-8) in the same game last season, which MHS won 49-29 before going on to win the  Class AAAA state championship.

In last season’s game, UHS coach Nick Lusk believed his team let the moment get to them a little bit, contributing to the loss. He thinks this season can be different.

“I think our senior leadership and the schedule that we played has prepared us for this,” Lusk said. “I think we’re different this year more than (Morgantown) is different.”

Seniors Ella Simpson and Ashlynn Weaver and juniors Hannah Stemple and Julia Maisel all played in the game last season.

The Hawks have gotten hot at the right time, winning seven of their last eight games. That one loss, however, was to Morgantown. MHS freshman Kayli Kellogg scored 30 points as the Mohigans won 64-54 on Feb. 13.

“We’re at the point in the season when both teams just have to come out and play well,” MHS coach Doug Goodwin said. “I think (having recently played) helps, but you never know what Nick is going to do there on the sideline. The last time we played they had some new defenses. You don’t want that familiarity to lead to being content.”

Morgantown had won three games in a row before falling to Wheeling Park in last week’s section final. After facing a tough away crowd in Wheeling, Goodwin expects another full gymnasium on Thursday, although with a move favorable split for the Mohigans.

“With our ending schedule, Spring Valley was a good crowd for an afternoon game and the last two times to Wheeling Park the environment was phenomenal,” Goodwin said. “We know it’ll be a good home crowd, but since it’s just across town we’re hopeful we’ll have a nice home crowd as well.”

The Mohigans could again be without all-state center Lily Jordan, who Goodwin said is still considered to be day-to-day.

Wheeling Park (20-4) will host Preston (11-13) in the other Region I co-final Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Mohigans have won nine of their last 10 games. Preston won a sectional game for just the second time in program history, defeating Bridgeport 51-47 on Feb. 21.

Tickets will not be sold at the gate for any region championships and must be bought in advance. Tickets can be purchased by going to gofan.co and searching for WVSSAC.