Story by Daniel Woods

The high school girls basketball season nears its culmination across the state of West Virginia with Eastern Panhandle teams beginning Region II sectional play on Tuesday. The semifinal matchups are set and with each team having faced one another twice already, the margins for error are incredibly small.

Section 1

  • #1 Martinsburg

The Bulldogs came within one game of running the table in the Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference, finishing the regular season 15-3 overall and 9-1 in the conference. That performance under the direction of second-year head coach Ronnie Fitzpatrick earned Martinsburg the top seed in Section 1 and a first-round bye.

En route to an EPAC conference championship, the Bulldogs completed season sweeps of sectional opponents Hedgesville and Spring Mills with an average margin of victory of 17.3 points across those four games. Stifling defense has gotten the job done to this point with Martinsburg holding its foes to an average of just 31.6 points per game this season.

That first-round bye means the Bulldogs will not take the court until Thursday, February 22 when they host the winner of the Hedgesville-Spring Mills semifinal.

  • #2 Spring Mills

Perhaps no girls basketball team in the EPAC has grown over the course of the season more than the Cardinals. Under first-year head coach Kara Hesen, Spring Mills won just one of its first 13 games but things began to turn late in the month of January when it gained its first conference win of the season against Jefferson.

After dropping games to top sectional seeds Martinsburg and Washington, the Cardinals proceeded to win five of their final six games, including two victories over semifinal opponent Hedgesville. Junior Bri King leads a young team that includes just two seniors in Faith Bush and Tory Henry and enters the postseason in the midst of a three-game winning streak.

Spring Mills hosts the Region II, Section 1 semifinal against third-seeded Hedgesville on Tuesday, February 20 at 7 pm.

  • #3 Hedgesville

After winning just two games under now-second-year head coach Matt Faircloth last season, the Eagles have tripled that win total and opened the campaign on a four-game winning streak. Led by sophomore Gracie Brown, Hedgesville continued to improve as the season went on and now has the opportunity to play spoiler in a section that includes a pair of county rivals.

The future is bright for the Eagles with an extremely young roster but the opportunity to make an appearance in a sectional final ahead of schedule is now on the table with just Spring Mills separating them from a third meeting with Martinsburg.

Section 2

  • #1 Washington

The Patriots made a run to the 2023 Class AAAA state tournament a year ago and lost just one senior with many pointing to them as the favorite in the EPAC entering the new season. While the regular season championship went to Martinsburg, Washington proved through conference play to be as impressive a girls team in the Eastern Panhandle as there is to be found.

Led by the guard tandem of Mary Rivera and Lexi Adams, the Patriots excel in a variety of styles with the ability to push the ball in the open floor, as well as play at a slower pace while utilizing a deep group of frontcourt players to control the paint. While a series of early season games against talented out-of-state opponents may leave the Patriots’ record looking lackluster, their performance in EPAC play goes to show just what this team is capable of in the postseason.

Washington earned a first-round bye as the top seed in Section 2 and will host the winner of Musselman and Jefferson on Thursday, February 20 at 7 pm.

  • #2 Musselman

Under first-year head coach Tim Potter, Musselman posted its first winning record in three years with a 15-7 overall finish after securing just five victories a year ago. While the Lady Applemen may have fallen short in both of their meetings with top-seed Washington, they are also the only EPAC team to knock off Martinsburg after pulling out a 44-42 win in the final game of the regular season.

With Jasmine Morris developing into a potential all-state caliber player, Musselman now has a go-to scorer while a variety of guards including Kaylee DeLuca and Nevaeh Thompson have the ability to make things happen on both ends of the floor. The Lady Applemen managed to take each of their meetings with semifinal opponent Jefferson by 17 points and will aim to do the same on Tuesday night with tipoff set for 7:30 pm in Inwood.

  • #3 Jefferson

With a number of new faces joining the lineup this season, a variety of struggles led Jefferson to win just two games against conference opponents but the Cougars still provide a postseason threat to any team that will have to face them. Senior Jazmyn Taylor has developed into one of the best scorers in the EPAC across her final season of high school basketball and has the ability to single-handedly keep her team in the game.

At the direction of head coach Damon Smith, Jefferson brings an up-tempo style to the table that can get opponents playing faster than they are used to and allows the Cougars to capitalize on turnovers. With Taylor being the only senior on the roster, improvement appears on the horizon for Jefferson but an opportunity to secure an appearance in the Section 2 final will come first with a battle against Musselman on Tuesday.

Semifinals will be held in both sections on Tuesday, February 20 at 7 pm with the Section 2 matchup between Musselman and Jefferson broadcast on the Panhandle News Network.

Sectional finals will be played on Thursday, February 22 at 7 pm with the winner of Section 1 facing the Section 2 runner-up and the Section 2 winner facing the Section 1 runner-up in the Region 2 co-finals.