Charleston Catholic all-stater Mackenzie Maier, defending against Valley’s Samantha Hamm in the regular season, will be a big obstacle for local girls basketball teams in upcoming postseason play.

Two of the state’s top seven Class A girls basketball teams are headed for a potential showdown in the sectional final this week.

Barring an upset by Valley of Class A No. 7 Fayetteville in the Region 5, Section 2 opener Wednesday at Smithers, the Pirates will square off with No. 1 Charleston Catholic at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a berth in the Region 5 final.

The two teams met twice in the regular season, with the Irish, 17-2 as of Thursday, winning by margins of 63-52 and 72-56, but Fayetteville senior Brooke Wheeler feels her squad will be up to the task.

“Our 6 to 7 main players need to step up and play their best basketball,” Wheeler said. “They (Catholic) are awesome, but coach says it’s hard to beat a good team three times, and we’re a good team.

“I really, truly believe we can beat them.”

Wheeler scored 24 points in the first Catholic matchup, but could put only three notches in the scorebook in the later game.

“Brooke needs to play really well for us,” says her coach, John Mark Kincaid.

Wheeler said, “The first seven players need to have solid games, including me. I need to look for my shot more and need to penetrate more.”

“Three of us need to be in double figures scoring,” she added. “With three in double figures, we win.”

Junior Casey Smith leads the Pirates with a 12.9 scoring average. Sophomore center Cayla Rhodes follows at 12.7, Wheeler at 10.5, sophomore Stephanie Nickell at 9.3 and senior Tyler Hogan at 3.6.

Kincaid thinks his team can beat Valley, which it has already defeated by scores of 53-28 and 54-26, to force another matchup with Catholic. And that’s a game which he feels the Pirates have the opportunity to win, too.

“We need to handle their press and make it a half-court game,” he said. “We’re playing real well right now.

“We need to make a few shots; when we make some outside shots, we’re pretty good.”

Catholic coach Ashley Shepler, who guided her charges to a runner-up finish in single-A last season, says Fayetteville will offer stiff competition to her team’s quest to advance.

“Fayetteville is a very tough team capable of having a big game,” says Shepler. “We will need to continue to do the things that got us to this point. We will have to stay within ourselves and rely on our defensive pressure and help rotation.”

“I think our senior leadership and experience will be a factor,” she added.

Of Irish star, 6-foot-3 Mackenzie Maier, who scored 31 in the most recent conquest of FHS, Kincaid says, “You might be better off trying to do the best you can (defending her) and keep an eye on the other girls. She’s going to get her points; we just need to be more aware of where she is.”

Wheeler says Catholic isn’t a one-player team.

“They’re a pretty even team. They have an awesome ballhandler (Kim Abcouwer), Maier’s a good shooter, and they have a solid post player (Liz Davis). We have to know where Maier is at all times, but we need (to be concerned) with the other players, too.”

Valley coach Marshall Murray realizes his young team is an underdog against either Catholic or Fayetteville.

“If we’re hitting our shots, we can probably play with about anybody,” he said. “We’ve played some tough folks, but you can’t take plays off like we do.

“We’ve got a lot of players basketball-wise who are real young.”

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Also this week, second-year Mount Hope coach Chris Hillberry hopes his unit continues its improvement when it faces MSU Academy Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Greater Beckley Christian in the Region 6, Section 1 opener. The winner plays Greater Beckley Thursday at Shady Spring Middle.

A year ago, the Mustangs didn’t win a game until facing MSUA in the section opener, in which they prevailed before falling in the next outing to GBC. This year, Mount Hope owned a 7-11 record as of Thursday, and Hillberry says the players have responded well.

“We’re playing good team ball,” he said. “I’m really happy and pleased.”

Senior guard Jessica Ellison leads the team with a scoring average of about 12.5 ppg. Other main contributors have included seniors Patricia Grant (6.2 ppg) and Shannon Morgan (10.1) and sophomore Cindy Hillberry (5.0). “They’ve all been pretty consistent all along for us,” the coach said.

Among those who have stepped up their level of play, coach Hillberry said, have been juniors Felicia Allen and Holly Knight and sophomore Ashley Hannah.

The Mustangs defeated MSUA twice in the regular season, by scores of 47-30 and 64-41, and lost their only meeting with Greater Beckley, 42-34.

“I’ve been pretty well impressed with my team,” Hillberry said. “It’s a pretty good group of kids.”

In other postseason matchups involving local teams this week, Meadow Bridge faces either Mercer Christian or Big Creek tonight, Midland Trail tips off against Pocahontas, Greenbrier West or Richwood at the Summersville Armory, and Oak Hill tackles Class AA play by facing either Webster or Braxton at Webster County High School Wednesday.

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Pairings are as follows:

Class A Region 5 (final

at Summersville Armory March 1)

Section 1 (at Summersville Armory)

-- Field: Midland Trail, Greenbrier West, Pocahontas, Richwood

-- Pairings: Unknown

Section 2 (at Valley High)

--- Field: Charleston Catholic, Fayetteville, Valley

-- Pairings: Wednesday, Feb. 21 — Valley vs. Fayetteville, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 23 — Valley-Fayetteville winner vs. Charleston Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

-- Notes: Inclement weather dates are Feb. 22 and 24. Admission both nights is $5 for everyone.

Class A Region 6 (final at Shady Spring Middle)

Section 1

-- Field: Mount Hope, Greater Beckley Christian, Mountain State Academy

-- Pairings: Tuesday, Feb. 20 — Mount Hope vs. MSU Academy at Greater Beckley, 7 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 22 — MH-MSUA winner vs. GBC at Shady Spring Middle

Section 2 (at Shady Spring Middle)

-- Field: Big Creek, Meadow Bridge, Mercer Christian, Montcalm

-- Pairings: Monday, Feb. 19 — Tentative depending on results of final regular season games: Big Creek/MCA vs. Meadow Bridge, and Big Creek/MCA vs. Montcalm; Thursday, Feb. 22 — Championship

Class AA Region 4 (final

at Summersville Armory Feb. 28)

Section 1

-- Field: Roane, Clay

Section 2 (at Webster Co.

High School)

-- Field: Oak Hill, Webster, Braxton

-- Pairings: Games on Wednesday, Feb. 21 and Friday, Feb. 23, with snow date of Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. Admission $5.

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