MAN — Even though the Man High School basketball team has the unenviable task of taking on No. 1-ranked Huntington St. Joe in the first round of the Class A girls’ basketball tournament, the Lady Billies are happy to make it.
Man (15-10) advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2008 with last week’s thrilling 79-71 double overtime win over Fayetteville in the Class A regional co-championship game.
St. Joe, the top seed, is 22-1 heading into the state tourney.
Man, the number eight seed, is led by senior co-captains Summer Sword and Taylor Whited.
Sword became Man High School’s all-time leader in career points this season as she surpassed Sarah Caserta.
Man and St. Joe are scheduled to play each other on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center in one of the four state quarterfinals.
Sword said she’s excited to play in the state tournament.
“I’m excited,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I wouldn’t wanted to spend it with any other team. It’s great for our school and the community especially to see us go to the state tournament. It’s a big boost to the community.”
Sword currently has 1,510 career points and tallied 31 in the win over Fayetteville. She passed Caserta, a 2002 Man graduate, who finished her career with 1,463 points.
Whited said she’s always wanted to play in the state tournament.
“It’s something I always wanted to do since Midget League to go and play in the state tournament,” Whited said. “I know without a shadow of a doubt if it wasn’t for God we wouldn’t be going. I couldn’t ask for better teammates to go to the state tournament with.”
Lady Billies’ junior Jennifer Shull said the team has worked hard to make it.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I am so glad we made it to state. The hard work and dedication has finally paid off. We have really worked hard for this.”
Junior Morgan Conn said nobody expected the Lady Billies to make it to the state tournament.
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking,” Conn said. “I’m glad that we made it this far and now all the hard work has really paid off.”
Sophomore Mika McCoy, who netted 27 points in the win over Fayetteville, said it will be exciting to play on the Civic Center floor.
“I am very excited,” McCoy said. “I have dreamed about this since Buddy League and I can’t wait to play on that floor. I enjoy playing with this group of girls.”
St. Joe is one of the best teams in the state regardless of class and Man will go into the contest as heavy underdogs.
The Irish advanced to state with an easy 73-45 win over Parkersburg Catholic in the regionals. St. Joe breezed in the sectionals with wins over Wahama (86-31) and Charleston Catholic (80-30).
St. Joe’s only loss this season was a 53-48 setback to Webb, Tenn., in a holiday tournament game on Dec. 29 in Atlanta — a tourney in which the Irish were 2-1. The Irish have since reeled off 15 straight wins.
St. Joe is led by 5-8 junior guard Mychal Johnson, who averages 22.3 points per game. She has verbally committed to play collegiate basketball at the University of Notre Dame.
The Irish also have 5-6 juinor Griffin Dempsey, who averages 17.4 points per contest. Other top St. Joe players include 5-8 junior Rachel Lee (10.7) and 5-10 junior Asia Petitte (11.5).
St. Joe is 3-0 against state tourney teams this season. The Irish knocked off Class AAA Parkersburg South (63-49) and have wins over Wheeling Central (47-39) and Williamstown (104-64).
Man, coached by Tonia Ward, also played Williamstown in the West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament and lost 84-61 on Feb. 8.
Lady Billies’ assistant coach Julie Fleming said it’s a big accomplishment to be a part of the state tournament.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the kids because they have worked hard to get here. We’re very proud of our girls,” Fleming said.
Ward said her team is going to go and play their game.
“This is only the second time in 25 years that the girls have been to the state tournament,” Ward said. “St. Joe is the defending state champions and they have something to prove. We don’t. If we go and play like we did against Fayetteville we’ll be OK. So we’re going to go and play our game and nothing else.”
All four Class A state quarterfinals are set for Wednesday.
The first game is at 9:30 a.m. as No. 3 St. Marys (23-1) takes on No. 6 Tygarts Valley (17-7). Then at 1 p.m., second seeded Wheeling Central (20-4) plays No. 7 Valley Fayette (13-7) at 1 p.m. Valley Fayette eliminated Tug Valley 62-58 in the regionals to advance to the state tourney.
The last Class A quarterfinal pits No. 4 Tucker County (19-5) against No. 5 Williamstown (14-9) on Wednesday at 9 p.m.
The two semifinals are Friday at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The Class A state championship game is set for Saturday at noon.
Man went 0-5 against state tourney teams this season, including a pair of losses to county rival and Class AAA state tournament team Logan. The Lady Billies also lost to Class AA No. 1 Westside twice.
Man Lady Billies (15-10)
2012-13 Girls’ Basketball Schedule
Nov. 27: Logan, L 40-61
Dec. 4: Ripley, W 43-32
Dec. 11: Cross Lanes Christian, W 64-62 (OT)
Dec. 17: at Westside, L 34-72
Dec. 20: at Greater Beckley Christian, W 66-24
Dec. 28: Wahama, W 60-46
Jan. 5: at Sherman, W 64-50
Jan. 8: at Cross Lanes Christian, W 55-45
Jan. 11: Gilmer County, L 52-58
Jan. 16: at Wahama, W 65-42
Jan. 17: Sherman, W 64-46
Jan. 23: Charleston Catholic, L 55-64
Jan. 24: Tug Valley, W 67-51
Jan. 26: Sherman, W 59-26
Jan. 28: at Logan, L 52-72
Feb. 4: at Tug Valley, L 54-65
Feb. 5: Mount View, W 46-39
Feb. 6: Westside, L 48-86
Feb. 8: at Williamstown (WVHIT), L 61-84
Feb. 11: Greater Beckley Christian, W 70-20
Feb. 12: at Charleston Catholic, W 46-45
Feb. 13: at Greenbrier East, L 37-72
Feb. 19: Sherman (sectional), W 52-22
Feb. 21: at Tug Valley (sectional), L 37-58
Feb. 28: at Fayetteville (regional), W 79-71 (2OT)
March 6: Huntington St. Joe (state), 5:30 p.m.