One thing folks in Tucker County have grow accustomed to is the Mountain Lions' annual trip to Charleston and the state tournament when the month of March rolls around.
That's because its more than a decade since Tucker County, which faces Midland Trail in Class A opening round action today at 9 p.m., has been absent from the field of eight.
"The pressure on our kids to make it to the state tournament is sometimes overwhelming," Tucker County veteran coach Tom Gutshall said. "I mean people around here plan their vacations around it. So its not only a big deal for the community, but our players as well."
The Inter-Mountain file photo
Tucker County and leading scorer Tyler Snyder will begin Class A state tournament play tonight against Midland Trail at the Charleston Civic Center. Game time is slated for 9 p.m.
Even though the Mountain Lions struggled out of the gates this season, the Tucker County faithful had to feel confident that their team would be making its 11th consecutive trip to Charleston.
"We really wasn't doing very many things right at the beginning of the season," Gutshall said. "But the kids kept getting better and better as the season went along. We're happy to be headed back to the state tournament."
After 11 games into the season, the Mountain Lions had a 6-5 record after back-to-back losses to Moorefield and Southern (Md.) heading into the final week of January.
But Tucker County lost just one more game after that, winning 13 of its last 14 contests, including eight straight entering today's game.
"Our kids have bought into what we're doing and worked hard to get where they're at," Gutshall said. "We've really came along way this season. We had some quality wins over some good teams during the final month of the season."
Tucker County has reached the semifinals of the state tournament the past three seasons, including last year when Trinity eliminated the Mountain Lions.
Tyler Snyder, Nathaniel Goldstein, Nick Nedrow and Ian Nichols all saw playing time in Tucker County's two contests on the Charleston Civic Center floor last season.
"We're fairly young, but we have several players that played in last year's state tourney," Gutshall said. "That definitely helps when your kids have been there before."
Snyder currently leads the team in scoring at 14 points per game. Nichols is also averaging double figures at 12 points per contest.
The Mountain Lions will face a seasoned Midland Trail team, which has six seniors on its roster.
The Patriots sport a 21-4 record after defeating Meadow Bridge for the regional championship.
"Midland Trail rebounds the ball very well and they have an experienced group," Gutshall said. "We're going to have to shoot the ball well if we have any chance of winning.
"Rebounding is also going to be key for us."
Senior guard Jordan Burdette will look to lead the Midland Trail attack. Burdette poured in 23 points in the Patriots' regional title game win over Meadow Bridge.
"Burdette is a very good shooter," Gutshall said. "He's capable of hurting us if we let him. Overall, Midland Trail is just a well- rounded basketball team."
The winner will advance to semifinal action to face either Pocahontas County or St. Marys at 7:15 p.m. on Friday.