When Steve Taylor started the initial Wildcat Invitational, he never dreamed he was creating a monster.
Nine years later, the basketball tournament is a highlight of the season in the small Fayette County town.
“It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Taylor, now in his 14th year at the Lady Wildcats’ helm. “We keep getting packed houses all day long.”
The tournament, which features varsity teams from Meadow Bridge High School and Meadow Bridge Middle School against good local competition, is set for Thursday and Friday, Dec. 27-28, at the high school.
Ansted and Greater Beckley Christian kick things off at noon Thursday in a middle school boys matchup. Marlinton and Meadow Bridge boys will play at 1:30 p.m., followed by Ansted and Greater Beckley middle school girls at 3 p.m. and Marlinton and Meadow Bridge girls at 4:30.
Varsity girls action starts at 6 p.m. as Liberty takes on Richwood. Greater Beckley Christian and Meadow Bridge will play at 7:30 p.m.
The middle school tournament continues the following day with the boys consolation at noon, the boys championship at 1:30 p.m., girls consolation at 3 p.m. and girls championship at 4:30 p.m.
The varsity consolation game is at 6 p.m. The championship game follows at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Taylor’s Meadow Bridge squad is off to a 4-0 start, led by the play of Chandra Harrah and Sarah Fleshman.
Harrah, a third-team all-state guard last season, is averaging 24 points a game. She has over 1,100 for her career.
“Chandra has shooting ability, and her ballhandling has come a long way,” Taylor said. “The last two seasons she’s also led us in assists. She’s a team player.”
Fleshman, a forward, averages 18 points. She, Harrah and forward Allison Gilkerson have played together since the second grade.
“Sarah has really stepped up her game,” Taylor said. “You know Chandra will get her 24, and when Sarah gets 18, we’re a dangerous team.
“Greater Beckley, Liberty and Richwood are young teams. Richwood’s Breanna Mazzella is a fun player to watch, along with Harrah and Fleshman.”
Taylor set a personal mark last week, getting his 200th career win in a 54-34 victory over Montcalm.
He said the Wildcat Invitational is a lot of work, but many volunteers help out. He thoroughly enjoys the event.
“People are in for the holidays, and many will stay from 11 in the morning until 9 at night,” Taylor said. “This will be a busy little place, with a lot of spirit.”
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