From My View For February 26
Every West Virginia high school basketball team starts the season with the dream of playing in the state tournament held at the Charleston Civic Center in March.
With only eight spots available in each classification, that dream is often never obtained by many schools, especially small Class A public schools throughout the state.
However, in an effort to bridge that gap and provide public schools with the opportunity to play in a state tournament-type atmosphere, the West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament was formed.
Now in its ninth year on the boys side and seventh year for the girls, the tournament continues to be a big success.
“We are trying to provide a statewide tournament experience for our smaller public schools,” WVHIT vice president Tom Wamsley said.
“We have had kids come back and tell us the tournament was some of the best experiences in their high school career.”
The WVHIT is open to all public schools across West Virginia and normally involves 20-24 schools each year.
“We open the tournament to all Class A public schools,” Wamsley said. “At the end of each basketball season, we send out invitations to all public schools. Our ultimate goal is to have every public school play in the tournament.”
Similar to the postseason format established by the WVSSAC for sectional and regional play, WVHIT games are played at school sites for three weeks until the championship weekend, with each team guaranteed at least one home game.
“It is a consolation type tournament with a winners and losers bracket,” Wamsley said.
“Teams are constantly playing for a placement in the tournament. As soon as a team loses, they are no longer playing for first place, they will play for third or fourth and so on.”
Teams are divided into two divisions with a champion coming from each group. The divisions are normally determined by school size, but can shift based on coaches’ discretion.
Fifteen teams make up the girls tournament this year: Greenbrier West, Meadow Bridge, Tolsia, St. Marys, Calhoun County, South Harrison, Cameron, Tygarts Valley, East Hardy, Harman, Clay-Battelle, Paw Paw, Van, Paden City and Union.
Outside of Cameron, each of those schools will also participate on the boys side, along with Buffalo, Doddridge County, Hundred, Ritchie County and Pocahontas County.
The tournament has to battle the snowy West Virginia weather each year and travel can be seen as a disadvantage, with teams on the Ohio border playing teams as far away as the Virginia border.
But those four-hour bus rides offer players and schools an opportunity that only the WVHIT tournament can provide.
“This tournament can also be a great educational experience for the teams and players,” said Hundred Head Boys Coach Virgil Wilkins said.
“This tournament is just an opportunity for our schools to play championship-style basketball,” Wilkins explained. “It is not a state championship, but it is an opportunity for a team to celebrate a championship on a state level. And it is a tough row to hoe to win it all.”