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No. 1 Williamstown preps for state tournament

Photo provided Williamstown’s Sam Cremeans cuts down part of the net following Williamstown regional co-final victory over St. Marys on Friday.

WILLIAMSTOWN — After a 14-1 regular season and a regional co-final win over St. Marys, the Williamstown Yellowjackets earned the No. 1 seed in the W.Va. Class AA state tournament.

The ‘Jackets begin their quest for a state championship at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday when they take on Moorefield in the quarterfinals at Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

Williamstown’s only loss of the campaign came March 17, a one-point setback to Greenbrier West. Since, the Scott Sauro-coached squad has won 10 in a row.

Moorefield received the No. 8 seed after a 6-11 regular season. The Yellow Jackets started 1-11 before winning their last five, most recently a 66-56 victory over Braxton County in a regional co-final.

“The thing that stick out is they’re a really good offensive rebounding team,” Sauro said. “They crash the boards as hard as anybody we play. That’s why they’ve had success at the end of the season. You look at their schedule, they’ve won their last five and offensive rebounding is a big reason.”

Dean Keplinger and Jaydon See are two players to watch for Moorefield. See is a 6-foot-4 post player who does a lot of work in the paint.

“We have to do a good job of limiting them to one shot, crashing the boards and being efficient on offense,” Sauro said.

Williamstown was the top seed going into last year’s single-A state tournament before COVID-19 put a stop to the season. The ‘Jackets are back at state this year, but aren’t dwelling on last season’s heart-breaking end or using it too much as motivation.

“We talk more about the opportunity we have this year,” Sauro said. “We have mentioned it, especially going through sectional and regional, but we try not to dwell too much on last year. It’s more about this year and trying to get the most we can out of this group of kids.”

Making up the rest of double-A field is No. 2 Poca, No. 3 Charleston Catholic, No. 4 Clay County, No. 5 Chapmanville, No. 6 Ritchie County and No. 7 Bluefield. It’s a stacked bracket, but Williamstown is as talented and well coached as anyone in the field.

The ‘Jackets’ starting lineup features Sam Cremeans (21.7 points per game), Xavier Caruthers (14.2 ppg), Baylor Haught (7.5 ppg), Gavin Bosgraf (5.3 ppg) and Garret Hill (4.3 ppg). Williamstown goes nine-, sometimes 10-deep the bench. Included in the rotation are Ryan Wager (7.2 ppg), Alex Irvin (6.1ppg ), Kent Wigal (3.1 ppg), Trevor Oates (3.0 ppg) and Seth Hammer (2.2 ppg).

“Being able to play nine or 10 kids consistently has been a huge bonus,” Sauro said. “We can keep kids fresh, rotate good defenders on good players. It’s really important. Our depth definitely is an advantage.”

Williamstown last played at the state tournament in 2019, when it lost in the quarterfinals. Caruthers, Hill and Haught all contributed on that team.

“They’re not going to be afraid of the moment,” Sauro said.

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