Martinsburg, –

One of the most competitive regular seasons in recent memory has come to a close for Eastern Panhandle boys basketball teams but there remains quite a bit to play for.

With all six EPAC programs ranking among the state’s best, sectional play opens up on Tuesday with a wide open field of competitors.


Section 1 (By Luke Wiggs)


  1. Spring Mills – Any doubts that the Cardinals may be faltering going into the postseason were quelled with a resounding 12 point top 10 victory against Wheeling Park on Thursday. Spring Mills have outscored their opponents by an average of 18 points per game in a schedule where just 4 opponents currently have losing records. The redbirds are a well constructed squad with Akwasi Opoku Achampong setting the tempo at the point, The Anderson brothers setting a high defensive floor, Tyler Jones coming on strong as a shooter and defender late in the season, Loukkhae Uth-Smith boasting multiple 20+ point performances against in state top 10 teams, and Caleb Thomas who may come through this postseason established as the best player in the state. The Cardinals go into the postseason with a lot to prove, having not won a playoff game as a school in boys hoops since 2015.
  2. Martinsburg – The Bulldogs have just 4 losses this season coming at the hands of top ranked Spring Mills twice, second ranked Morgantown, and Linsley who one could make the argument, is the 3rd best team in the state. Martinsburg has won 8 straight going into the playoffs and over those games are averaging 79 points while holding their opposition to 53. Martinsburg has seen Keshaun Cheek evolve into a star to accent a talented guard rotation of slashing guard Chase Shipley, freshman phenom Jasiah King and Shooter Jackson Steen. The Bulldogs have also settled on a solid forward rotation of the ever improving Anthony Owunna, 3 and D Kyree Bunny, and the always capable Garrett Hite. Martinsburg has also become a more press heavy team as the season has gone on meaning anyone who bests the Bulldogs will have to earn all 94 feet.
  3. Hedgesville – is a wild card heading into post season play. The Eagles average a conference low 50 points per game which is 17 points lower than Martinsburg who leads the EPAC in that category (coincidentally the 2 are sectional semi final opponents). Te Wilmer and Xavier Kirk will be tasked with shouldering much of the offensive load, while Noah Brown and Zandon Gainey will be asked to set the tone defensively. Kwynsie Pittsnogle has shown ability as a 6’9 shot maker but will also have to take it to the next level for the Eagles to soar in the playoffs. 

Section 2 (By Daniel Woods)

#1 Jefferson

While the Cougars may not have had the easiest path to the postseason, you can rest assured that Richard Lewis’s team is well-prepared to make a run at a third consecutive trip to the WVSSAC Class AAAA state tournament.

Jefferson wrapped up the season with a 15-7 record in spite of the fact that early season injuries to guards Jamari Jenkins and Kylan Johnson and forward Quintin Goins forced Lewis to reshape his team’s rotation and identity on the fly.

With Jenkins and Johnson healthy to close the regular season, the Cougars put together a strong finish that included a one-point loss to #1-ranked Spring Mills followed by an EPAC victory against Hedgesville and a statement win against #5-ranked George Washington.

As a more complete team of Cougars prepares to face the winner of Washington and Musselman on Friday, a program that proved to be the EPAC’s most consistent postseason winner over the last couple of seasons is ready to finally show what it is capable of.

#2 Musselman

Musselman head coach Derek Basile knows what it takes to lead a team to the state tournament and sometimes that means finding a spark from sources you weren’t expecting when the season began.

The Applemen started the campaign with non conference wins against traditional powers Parkersburg South and Woodrow Wilson but after enduring a slow start to conference play, Basile turned to several underclassmen to take on bigger roles.

Armed with a bruising frontcourt rotation of Matt Mahood, Troy Woolaston and Anden Santamaria, Musselman can play a style unique within the EPAC while the perimeter scoring of Gavin McClain and midseason emergence of sophomore Wade Bartles as a floor spacer allows the Applemen to attack opponents in a variety of ways.

Musselman opens the postseason in AAAA Region II, Section 2 against Washington on February 26.

#3 Washington

Ryan Miller’s first season as the head coach at Washington got off to a roaring start, opening the month of December with four straight wins. Three consecutive losses followed as a team relying on a combination of underclassmen and newcomers started to find its way.

The back and forth of the season continued but the Patriots hold two of the most impressive wins in the EPAC this season, sweeping county rival Jefferson in a pair of competitive games that proved Washington is capable of unseating any opponent it comes across in the postseason.

Junior DJ Boardley proved to be one of the most prolific scorers in the conference during his first season as a Patriot while point guard Kris Doleman continues to build off of a successful freshman season a year ago.

Miller made a late season shift in the lineup, providing more opportunities to freshmen and sophomores that played big roles on the junior varsity team and a now-deeper Washington team is prepared to battle Musselman for the right to face Jefferson one more time.

You can hear the action from Inwood on the Panhandle News Network at 7pm on Tuesday night as the Patriots and Applemen face off in the Region II, Section 2 semifinals.