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James Monroe’s Eli Allen named Evans Award winner

(Story by Dave Morrison/West Virginia Sports Writers Association)

James Monroe’s Eli Allen ascended the ladder like a king taking the throne, cutting down the final piece of the net following the Mavericks 66-35 victory against Tucker County in the Class A state championship. 

He had a crown on his head, brought to Charleston by a friend and he hoisted the net into the air like a scepter, a net that will go into the Mavericks trophy case and live on in posterity like the championship and net the Mavericks claimed of the year before. 

A week later Allen is another king of sorts, named Saturday the winner of the Evans Award as the state’s top basketball player by the West Virginia Sports Writer’s Association. 

The keys to Allen’s rise to the throne are many, including the late nights in the gym honing his craft and a well-timed growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore year that saw him go from 5-foot-8 to 6-2. There were travel league games, too many to count to sharpen the game, and two years of football, in which he was first-team all-state twice and was among the leaders in interceptions with 15 combined the last two seasons, to mold the toughness. 

Maybe the real key was right there in his own backyard. The toughest opponents Allen faced were right there in the gene pool. 

The list for the typical backyard brawls Allen’s cousin Brody Davis, a first-team all-state player from Class AAAA state champion Morgantown, another cousin, first-team all-state running back Ian Cline from Greenbrier East and stepbrother and teammate Josh Burks, a first-team all-state player himself. 

It was a family reunion free-for-all when that foursome got together. 

“Those boys would compete,” said Allen’s father Rodney, himself an outstanding athlete at Peterstown (which consolidated with Union to form James Monroe in 1994), a two-sport athlete at WVU (football and baseball) and a former Atlanta Braves farmhand. “They would never fight, but they would battle, and I think it probably did have something to do with the fact that they all became successful later on.” 

Allen finished his senior season averaging 21.4 points per game 7.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, leading his team in all three categories. He and teammates Burks and Fox, also four-year staters became just the second trio of teammates named to the Class A first-team (Athens, 1959) and just the fifth overall in all classes (Woodrow in 1993, South Charleston in 1984 and Huntington had four in 2007). 

“It’s humbling to win the award as player of the year in the state,” Allen said. “Coming up with my family we were always competitive. I think I knew at an early age I could be good at basketball. Player of the year? Probably not that. But I have to thank my teammates for pushing me every day to be a better player. And they did. Every one of them. And I also want to thank my coaches, my family and the community for being there for us.” 

Allen, now close to 6-4. came into James Monroe a rather average looking player, at 5-8, 140 pounds. There was nothing average about his competitiveness or his knowledge of the game. 

“You could tell right away that Eli had something about him,” coach Matt Sauvage said. “He was special. He missed his first nine games with an injury during a flex day and missed the first (nine) games. But when he came back you could see that he already had the IQ to be a great player.” 

Allen scored 13 in his first varsity game and averaged 12.5 points per game in 2020, but the Mavericks took several beatings to the likes of Bluefield and Shady Spring in their final season in Class AA.  

There is one popular story about James Monroe playing Bluefield in the Big Atlantic Classic and the Beckley Raleigh County Convention Center and Allen getting knocked down in the paint area. Bluefield’s Sean Martin, an imposing figure at 6-5, 250 pounds at the time, and now a defensive lineman at WVU, reached down with one arm and picked Allen up off the ground and stood him up. 

The next year Allen shot up the growth chart and grew as a player as well. He averaged 17.3 as a sophomore, 20.3 as a junior and 21.4 this season. 

Allen finished with 1,653 points (second in school history behind former teammate Shad Sauvage, 1,717), 672 rebounds (second behind 6-10 McKinley Mann’s 826) and 753 assists (first and, with the top 33 places on individual game assists to his credit at James Monroe nobody is close).  

“He is a once-in-a-generation player,” Matt Sauvage said. “I thought he was the best player in the state, but I also knew I was biased getting to coach him, which was an honor and a privilege. He was a great player and a great teammate. But as good a player as he was, he was a better person. We were at the state tournament, and we’d be ready to come out and kids would come up to him and he’d take time for every one of them. He is always picking up the trash around the bench after games. That’s the type of person he is.” 

Allen hopes that will be his legacy in a county where sports are the true king. 

“I do think about all the little kids that come up, I try to give them support, give them high fives, take pictures with them,” Allen said. “That means something to them. It may seem like something little to me, but I enjoy that part of it. I love it. I never want to take that for granted.” 

Allen said he will sit down over the next few weeks and mull over the many college offers he has received before deciding about his future. 

Allen is just the fourth Class A player to win the Evans Award, joining Notre Dame’s Jarrod West (2017), Mullens’ Herbie Brooks (1984) and Mount Hope’s Earl Jones (1979). 

The Evans Award has been awarded annually since 1970. 

Morgantown junior Sharron Young was second in voting for player of the year and Shady Spring senior Braden Chapman was third. Others considered were George Washington’s Ben Nicol, Fairmont Senior’s Zycheus Dobbs and South Harrison’s Corey Boulden. 

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Wheeling Park sophomore Alexis Bordas wins Mary Ostrowski Award as state’s top player

(Story by Chris Johnson/West Virginia Sports Writers Association)

Just two years into her high school career, Wheeling Park standout Alexis Bordas has built an impressive list of accomplishments.

She has helped lead the Patriots to the state tournament in both of her seasons, including a spot in the Class AAAA title game this year. She has earned first-team All-State honors two years in a row and was named first-team captain on the 2023 All-State team announced on Friday.

Bordas has already eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career and has been named the WV Gatorade Player of the Year and the MaxPreps Player of the Year.

Today she adds another accomplishment to her resume as she has been named the 2023 Mary Ostrowski Award winner, given annually to the state’s top girls basketball player by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

The honor also puts her in some exclusive company as she is just the third sophomore in the history of the state to win the Player of the Year award.

The current namesake for the award Mary Ostrowski (the Player of the Year Award was known as the Russell Thom Award until 2012) won it at Parkersburg Catholic in 1977 as a sophomore as well as her junior and senior seasons with Catholic.

 Alexis Hornbuckle won co-Player of the Year honors as a sophomore at Capital in 2002, sharing the award with North Marion’s Jessica Sell. Hornbuckle was also named Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004 at South Charleston.

“I really wasn’t expecting this,” Bordas said. “I’m honored, especially knowing all of the past players who have won this award and even the current players in the state that are great players, to be picked from them and named with all the past winners is definitely an honor.

“It means a lot winning it as a sophomore. I’m so young and hopefully I have more left in front of me in my career. I’m very thankful for all my teammates and coaches. I couldn’t have gotten here without them. I work really hard and it shows that it pays off and I’m going to keep working even harder.

“I also want to thank all of the sports writers for voting for me.”

Bordas entered this year’s state tournament averaging 20.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 3.6 steals per game. In three games in Charleston she put up 78 points (an average of 26 per game), and had 13 steals, the most of anybody in the tournament in either category.

“She is very deserving of this award,” Wheeling Park coach Ryan Young said. “She puts in so much work. She’s a great teammate, an easy player to coach. She’s the leader of our team and she deserves the recognition and our program does as well.

“She’s an elite scorer but she can start the offense with the ball. She’s just a very versatile player. She’s very smart and she doesn’t force a lot.”

When you reach 1,000 career points as a sophomore or when you pour in 34 points in a state tournament quarterfinal game, it’s hard to ignore Bordas’ ability to score but she says it is important to her that her skill set is about more than just points.

“My scoring is obviously the thing that people notice the most,” she said. “But, if someone was to ask me what the best part of my game is I think it’s definitely my basketball IQ. I just watch so much basketball, watch so much film from women’s college, men’s college, NBA, WNBA. I look for little details to help make myself better.

“I love this game. Every time I step on the court, I don’t take it for granted. I’m definitely a gym rat. If I can be in a gym working on my game that’s where I’m going to be. I’d live in a gym if they would let me.”

A prime example of the way Bordas’ mind works in the flow of the game came right before halftime of the title game against Morgantown when she had an open lane to the basket but pulled up and hit a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer.

“If there was more time on the clock I would have drove with the ball but I knew time was winding down,” Bordas said. “I looked at the clock when I got the pass and I saw there were 4 seconds left and there was definitely enough time to get to the basket but the way my momentum was going and I knew the defender was a couple feet off of me so I would have a clean look at the basket so I pulled up and it went in.”

Bordas also is not the type of player to rest on her laurels. She already is gearing up for another busy AAU season with the West Virginia Thunder and she still has at least one more goal in her sights for her high school career at Wheeling Park, perhaps the one that means the most to her – winning a state championship.

“It’s been my biggest goal since I entered high school and it still is,” Bordas said. “I’m very grateful for all the individual awards I won last year and this year but the state title is the biggest goal and it’s going to be the greatest feeling if we can get that.”

Other players who received votes for the 2023 Mary Ostrowski Award were Bordas’ teammate Lala Woods, Morgantown’s Lily Jordan, Bridgeport’s Gabby Reep, North Marion’s Olivia Toland, Cameron’s Ashlynn Van Tassell, Webster County’s Sydney Baird and Pendleton County’s Ana Young.

Bordas will be presented with the Mary Ostrowski Award at the 76th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 7 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.

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WVU wins in a walk-off (again); Lineup tweaks pay off in 5-4 win over Xavier

GRANVILLE, W.Va. — JJ Wetherholt has hit near the top of the lineup for most of the season for the Mountaineers. The sophomore infielder leads the team in hitting with a .456 batting average. Wetherholt’s move to the leadoff spot on Friday put him in position to win the opening game of West Virginia’s three-game series against Xavier.

And Wetherholt delivered a walk-off double to give the Mountaineers a 5-4 win over the Musketeers. West Virginia (17-5) has won back-to-back games in their final at bat.

“We just want to get him up there as many times as you can. The fact that he came up as the leadoff hitter, if he was hitting in the two-hole, he wouldn’t have been up in that situation. That was a pretty big change in the lineup,” said WVU head coach Randy Mazey.

Wetherholt stepped to the plate with runners on first and second with one man out. He jumped on the first pitch of the at bat and drove it into the left center field gap, sending Tre Keels home with the winning run.

“I was just trying to stay up and stay confident because my at bat before was pretty rough against that same pitcher (in the seventh inning). I kind of knew what the shape of his pitches looked like,” Wetherholt said. “I was just trying to visualize everything, get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it.”

West Virginia never trailed in the game but Xavier tied the game on three separate occasions. Kevin Dowdell, a new addition to the starting lineup, put WVU ahead in the second inning with an RBI single. Dowdell went 2-for-3.

“I went up-and-down the lineup card and every guy in the lineup for us today did something to help us win that game,” Mazey said. “There wasn’t anybody that was non-existent, which is hard to do during a baseball game. That was just a huge team win. Xavier is good, man. You can put them in the middle of the Big 12 and they would be just fine.”

Landon Wallace gave WVU a 3-1 lead with a two-run home run in the fourth inning. However, former Mountaineer Matt McCormick answered with a two-run home run of his own in the sixth to even the score in the sixth. The teams traded runs in the seventh and eighth innings, setting the stage for Wetherholt’s heroics in the ninth. Wetherholt went 3-for-5.

Despite allowing a run in the eighth inning, Carlson Reed pick up the win for WVU in relief of Ben Hampton. Hampton allowed three runs in seven innings and he struck out seven batters.

“The last time Ben pitched here it was raining and miserable like this and he wasn’t as good. So I think that was in his mind that I can’t let that happen again. He attacked from the first pitch to the last pitch he was out there,” Mazey said.

Game two of the weekend series is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.

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Archery in Schools tourney set for Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 750 youngsters from elementary to high school age in West Virginia are ready to toe the line and take 10 shots this weekend at the annual West Virginia Archery in Schools State Championship in Charleston.

“I will say the competition seems to be steep this year,” said Chris Scraggs who heads up the program for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

“I’ve let a few coaches know what was a high score last year is considered below this year, so they’ve got a lot of work to prove they are the best of the best,” he added.

Each team had to shoot a qualifying round to get into the state tournament. It’s the culmination of a season of archery shooting in the schools of West Virginia. The program, now in its 18th year, is organized as an extra curricular activity after school or part of the physical education curriculum in participating schools.

“We had over 96 schools enter their students or their teams into our qualifier,” said Scraggs

The event has students from the elementary school, middle school, and high school level. The event will include some home school students who also participate.

The program has been a popular edition to some schools and has become attractive because it appeals to everybody. The smallest girls and the largest boys compete on an even playing field. Everybody shoots open sights and all with the same bows at the same distance and at the same targets.

Typically held in the Charleston Coliseum, this year’s even has been moved to the Convention Center where the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show is annually held. Scraggs said it’s a larger venue to get more shooters through.

“Bigger venue, bigger hall and we’re going to have 80 targets. We have a total of 754 kids participating,” he said.

At the end of the day there will be top teams at the elementary, middle, and high school level along with top individual shooters from those classes. This year’s event, for the first time will have an added prize, top male and top female shooters.

“We decided to do an overall male first place and overall female first place. With those will come prize bows donated by NASP and on the limb it actually says, ‘West Virginia Champion,'” he said.

Spectators are welcome and the admission is $5 for adults, ages 6-17 for $3, and kids under age six are admitted for free.

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Storm headed into West Virginia packs a punch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The National Weather Service says high winds and rainfall are already striking along the Ohio side of the Ohio River and could potentially create flooding and damage in the next 24 hours, particularly in the Ohio River counties of West Virginia. Flood watches are already in effect for a section of the state stretching from Jackson County to Tyler County along the Ohio River and then counties east to Elkins.

In Charleston, the state Division of Emergency Management is in a State of Preparedness for all 55 West Virginia counties after a declaration by Governor Jim Justice. The agency continues to constantly monitor the weather situation.

“With our partners at VOAD and the Guard and all of the usual groups that come out in these kinds of situations, we’re just trying to make sure we’re all on the same sheet of music and prepared to respond if necessary,” said Lonnie Bryson, Chief of Preparedness and Response.

As of mid-afternoon Friday, there had been some minor wind damage, but nothing major which rose to the level of a full activation of the State Emergency Operations Center. However, the weekend could be a different story.

“The storm is forecast to bring some excessive rain, gusty winds, and some areas of the state the National Weather Service has already issued a flood watch, especially in North Central West Virginia going into Saturday afternoon,” he said.

The biggest worry is the potential for “training” storms. Training is a weather pattern in which one heavy cloudburst spawns another and another in succession over the same small area. The deluge is typically fast and repeated downpours are more than any one area can drain and typically leads to flooding.

Bryson also worried about the rainfall weakening tree roots and creating the potential for even more problems.

“There’s been some light wind damage around the state. The gusty winds themselves are problematic, but you add rain to that and you potentially have loose roots that can bring trees down and affect power,” he said.

The storm threat stretches into Saturday afternoon across most of West Virginia.

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Some Monongalia County schools dismiss early Friday due to storm

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Rainfall forced early dismissal of some Monongalia County schools on Friday, but MECCA 911 director Jim Smith reports very few flood-related issues.

Clay-Battelle Middle School, Clay-Battelle High School dismissed at 10:30 a.m. and students from the Mason Dixon Elementary were released at 11:30 a.m.

Smith said early Friday morning there was a report of water over Route 7 in the Blacksville area, but the DOH responded to open a ditch to allow the water to runoff.

“It was reported that the ditches were plugged, so DOH was notified and I believe they went out and opened that ditch up,” Smith said.

Rainfall totals are varying greatly over the region, according to Smith.

“I believe out in the western end of Monongalia County they got a little bit more and over in Preston County I believe they got a little bit more,” Smith said.

Some areas in Preston County have reported two inches or more of rain and gauges at the Morgantown Municipal Airport showed about 1.3 inches as of 8 a.m. Friday.

The flood watch remains in place until 8 a.m. Saturday.

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Local Girl Scout Cookie sales kick off for the season

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Girl Scout Cookie season has made its annual return, and troops across 61 counties throughout the region will be distributing them.

The year’s supply of cookie shipments arrived to The Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council in Charleston on Friday, where members and volunteers of the council gathered in the rain to unload over 144,000 boxes of Samoas, Tagalongs, Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, and all of the popular girl scout cookie brands.

After The Cookie Program began in 1917, girl scouts throughout the country have been using it as a way to finance the many activities that they do, as well as support their overall mission ever since. 

The CEO of Girl Scouts of the Black Diamond Council, Beth Casey, said that they wouldn’t be able to fund everything they do without the help from the community in buying the cookies.

“Our community hugely supports the girl scouts throughout our Girl Scout Cookie Program, it provides funding for our troops to do their community service projects and to do their big trips each year, but it also ensures that girls in all communities can be a girl scout,” said Casey.

The council says that today, the cookie program allows the girls to develop their inner leadership potential and to use their earnings to specifically fund experiences such as outdoor adventure, science, technology, among other educational and fun opportunities.

However, along with the community helping to give to the girl scouts, the troops also try and give back to the community whenever the opportunity arises. The proceeds from the sales stay local and have helped support animal shelters, food banks, and other community services.

Casey said that through these exchanges, it helps teach the girls practical skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

“So, the girl scout cookie program teaches lifelong skills, things like goal setting, money management, people skills, and these are skills that girls use throughout their career, ” she said.

The cookie distributions are soon expected to make their way to customers throughout not only Kanawha County, but Mason County, Clay, Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Mingo, Putnam and Logan counties. Cookies will be sold at storefronts and other business locations around the region beginning this week.

Casey added that it’s a large entrepreneurial opportunity for local girls.

“The girl scout cookie program is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the nation, and we’re excited to give girls in this area the chance to learn those skills,” Casey said.

People can use the cookie-locator feature on the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council website to find cookie booths in the area.

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$1 million Powerball ticket sold in Nicholas County

CRAIGSVILLE, W.Va. — A $1 million Powerball ticket was sold in Nichloas County.

The winning ticking was sold at the U Save Foods store on Route 20 and 55 in Craigsville, according to a news release Thursday from the West Virginia Lottery.

The ticket was purchased for Wednesday’s drawing and matched all five numbers (27, 28, 37, 50, 57) but not the Powerball (5).

The current jackpot for Saturday night’s drawing stands at $112 million.

Tickets can be purchased for $2 a piece, or $3 with the Powerplay option, which increases non-jackpot prizes.

The deadline to purchase tickets for the next drawing is 9:59 p.m. Saturday.

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Capito meets with Mexico’s president, discusses trip on curbing flow of fentanyl to U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) says she expressed her concerns about fentanyl flowing into the country during a recent trip to Mexico.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

Capito briefed reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday about her trip to Mexico last Sunday.

The senator joined a congressional delegation that met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and others.

Capito said the drug epidemic remained one the top issues discussed with the president.

“He told us that he would go directly and forcefully to the Chinese government to try to stop the flow or disrupt the flow of the precursor chemicals that are coming in to the ports, into Mexico and then across our border and killing, in my case, over 1,100 West Virginians last year alone by fentanyl,” she said.

Capito said she also talked with the Mexican president about the flow of illegal immigrants across the border.

“Title 42 is going to go away in May,” she said. “What’s going to happen to the already chaotic border between the United States and Mexico?”

The Trump-era order allows officials to skip the asylum process and deport people who illegally cross the southern border.

Capito said she urged Mexican officials to work together to prevent more illegal crossings.

“How can we help Mexico? How can Mexico help us?” she said they discussed. “We got into a lot of technology. We got into a lot of workforce issues. We talked a lot about the cartels and human trafficking.”

The meeting was a step in the right direction, Capito said.

“We tried to be positive in terms of trying to find solutions rather than just constantly identifying the problems that we have and that we see at that border because they’re massive,” she said.

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WVU Energy Institute panel: Act now to control methane or it could be too late

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University Energy Institute held the panel discussion “The Other Greenhouse Gas and Why It Matters for West Virginia” to highlight the importance of mitigating methane, a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Morgan King

The mitigation program would create jobs for inspectors and help ease climate change.

Morgan King, Climate Campaign Coordinator, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said just this week scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released what they called a “final warning.” In short, the report that took eight years to prepare said,”Act now, or it will be too late.”

“If we don’t drastically cut emissions starting now we are going to lock in warming that is going to be detrimental,” King said. “This isn’t something that can be reversed later on and it will change the way our ecological systems work.”

King also said the problem in West Virginia is aggravated by the number of active and abandoned oil and gas wells. The Department of Environmental Protection reports there are thousands of the abandoned wells, some are estimated to be over century old and continue to leak.

“We have tens of thousands of oil and gas wells- it’s really a local problem,” King said. “Over half of West Virginians live within a mile of an oil and gas well, so you probably know someone, or you live in proximity to one of these wells.”

Evan Hansen

Panelist Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia, 79) said legislation passed this year increases funding to the Office of Oil and Gas, which will double the number of inspectors from 10 to 20. But, this type of program would require many more workers to do the job correctly.

“We have 75,000 wells in the state and many of those are active wells,” Hansen said. “One of things that is going to be required is inspections of those well- and that means jobs for inspectors.”

Hansen said one of the disappointments in the state is the number of jobs West Virginians have working for natural gas companies. Hansen believes constant monitoring and testing will require companies to hire more local residents to complete the work.

“If you’ve got people that have to go out and visit these well sites they have to be located here in West Virginia,” Hansen said. “These would be ongoing jobs, at least the inspection jobs would be ongoing jobs.”

The supplemental rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires a reduction in methane emissions to 87 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.

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