CHARLESTON - Tucker County Tom Gutshall is the first to admit the road from Hambleton to Charleston was a difficult one to pave this season.
But after a few detours and some minor road blocks, the fourth-seed Mountain Lions (17-8) are once game in a familiar spot the third week of March - playing in the state tournament.
"I never thought before the season we would be back (in Charleston) with only one starter returning," said Gutshall, who has guided Tucker County to 10 straight state tournament berth. "But all of the kids have stepped up throughout the season and we're very excited to be headed back to Charleston."
Good luck TCHS and PBHS in states
While some of Gutshall's younger kids are unfamiliar with playing at the state level, the first-round opponent - Wheeling Central - is a familiar one to the Tucker County faithful.
The schools have met on three occasions in Charleston since Tucker County dropped from Class AA, including the 2004 state championship game where the Maroon Knights claimed a 73-67 victory in overtime.
"Wheeling Central has a very good team," Gutshall said. "(Head coach Mel Stephens) does a great job with his program and they don't make many mistakes."
Veteran head coach Tom Gutshall has Tucker County in the state tournament for the 10th straight season. Tucker County, the fourth seed, battles No. 5 Wheeling Central today at 9 p.m. in quarterfinal action at the Charleston Civic Center. (CU and The Inter-Mountain/Joe Blankenship)
Logan Snyder leads Tucker County in scoring. The senior guard is averaging 21 points. (CU and The Inter-Mountain/Joe Blankenship)
Mountain Lion senior guard Logan Snyder has emerged as one of the top players in the Class A ranks this season.
The talented 6-foot-3 Snyder, who was the quarterback on the school's playoff football team, is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds. He figures to be a repeat member on the Class A all-state first team.
Sophomore guard Nathaniel Goldstein has emerged during the postseason as a double-figure scorer and is averaging 11 ppg. Sophomore guard Tyler Snyder is hitting for 9.1 points, while senior center Devin Smith and junior forward Nick Nedrow average around 7.1 points.
Freshman Ian Nichols and junior forward Tim Rosier are also counted on for point production.
"We'll need some players to step up their scoring in Charleston," Gutshall said. "Our bench play also will be important."
Fifth-seed Wheeling Central (15-11) counters with a trio of senior guards - Shane Livingstone, Brandon Ingram and Joel Jarrett, while 6-foot-5 center Shane Greskevitch controls the paint. The Maroon Knights defeated Gilmer County in a regional final to advance.
Game time is slated for 9 p.m. today. The winner faces the Trinity-Meadow Bridge victory Friday at 1 p.m. in the semifinals.