It’s going to be a wild ride.
Coaches talk in cliches about their district games all the time: “You can’t take any games off.” “You have to come ready to play every night.”
But the difference this year is the cliches are aligned with truth.
The Mountain 7 races, with the possible exception of the Wise Central boys and the Abingdon girls, are about as balanced as they have been since the creation of the league.
Central’s boys (8-3) have yet to lose to a Virginia opponent. The Warriors, off to their best start in the program’s nine-year history, have been strong all season and look like the front-runner in the district race.
However, coach T.J. McAmis’ squad can ill afford not to take every district contest as a serious challenge.
The Warriors travel to Lee High Friday for what will be a definite challenge.
First-year head coach Kevon Honeycutt has folks in Lee County believing in the Generals’ basketball program.
Coming off a Grand Home Furnishings Holiday Classic championship, the Generals (8-1) are having one of their best starts in many years. And Lee High folks are believing this could be the turnaround they’ve been longing for.
“Our main goal is to be playing in March,” Honeycutt said of his team’s aim to make the VHSL Class 2 state tournament. “I think everything we’ve done has built up to what we’re wanting to do.
“Central is coming to our place Friday night and Central is no joke. And we better be ready to play,” the Lee coach said. “That’s the thing with us. We’ve got to be ready to play night in and night out. I feel like we’ve got a target on our backs. That’s how it’s going to be the rest of the season because Lee is not supposed to win and we’re winning and nobody likes it.”
Central and Lee are not the only programs that are looking strong.
Ridgeview is off to its best start in school history with an 8-3 mark, while Union coach Zack Moore has one of his youngest squads in the program’s existence off to a 5-3 start and making some noise.
New Abingdon coach Aaron Williams has his team believing, and the Falcons are off to a 5-2 start, while John Battle, under new coach Steve Posey, started the season strong and is looking to contend.
Moreover, Mountain 7 power Gate City is going to be strong as always. The Blue Devils are 3-4, but losses have been to two Tennessee squads in regular-season meetings and to two solid Florida teams in a tournament down south.
With Bradley Dean looking to becoming a 2,000-point career scorer, which would give Gate City three such players in three straight years, bets are strong that the Blue Devils will be in the mix.
GIRLS RACE ALSO WILL BE A BATTLE
Abingdon’s girls start 2020 coming off a loss to Lord Botetourt on Tuesday in the championship game of the Knight Winter Classic Tournament at Cave Spring High School in the Roanoke area.
The loss dropped the Lady Falcons to 7-1.
Coach Jimmy Brown’s squad is hungry for a Mountain 7 title, and with leaders like Peyton Carter and Emily Breeding they are poised for a run deep into the postseason.
Abingdon travels to Union (6-2) Friday for a key contest.
Union is one of the favorites in the district, but has already suffered a setback with a December district loss to Gate City.
Ridgeview coach Donnie Frazier’s youthful Wolfpack are supposed to be in a rebuilding mode this season. But with a 6-2 start, the Pack is thinking more about a run for the district title.
Another team in rebuilding mode is Wise Central. But the Lady Warriors (5-4) have won three straight VHSL Class 2 state championships and five of the last six state crowns.
There is no doubt coach Robin Dotson’s squad will be in contention by the season’s end.
Gate City has shown it will also be a player in the run for the district title. The Lady Blue Devils picked up an impressive district win against Union in December.
John Battle and Lee High have also shown sparks and cannot be taken lightly by any Mountain 7 foe.
THE TOP SIX PICKS
With the beginning of a new year come the first Top Six polls for Southwest Virginia’s boys and girls basketball teams.
Wise Central’s boys and Abingdon’s girls, coming off strong tournament performances, head this week’s polls. Included are the team, last week’s ranking and current record.
BOYS TOP SIX
1) Wise Central (NR) 8-3
2) Lee High (NR) 8-1
3) Abingdon (NR) 5-2
4) Grundy (NR) 6-1
5) Union (NR) 5-3
6) J.I. Burton (NR) 5-3
GIRLS TOP SIX
1) Abingdon (NR) 7-1
2) Union (NR) 6-2
3) Ridgeview (NR) 6-2
4) Marion (NR) 7-2
5) Patrick Henry (NR) 6-2
6) Thomas Walker (NR) 6-1