HHS boys end a half century of basketball frustration
The Trojans had won their sectional championship 13 times through the school’s history — only to lose in the regional finals each time and miss out on a chance to play in the state basketball tournament.
Today though, the boys are at the capital after a 52-41 victory last Tuesday over North Marion in their Region 1, Class AAA game.
Coach Danny Alkire, who played for 1 of those 13 other frustrated sectional champs, was planting himself firmly in the here-and-now of the moment.
“To be honest, I don’t think about our regional loss,” he said of the 2000-01 team coached by Larry See. “I feel I’m more of an asset now as a coach and prefer watching my players achieve greatness than me as a player.”
The 2020-21 Trojans have their next shot at greatness this afternoon, and it’s an uphill battle.
They take the court against top-seeded Robert C. Byrd of Clarksburg in the opening round of the tournament. Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.
“We are happy we made it, but we are going down there to pick up some more victories,” Alkire said.
The road to Charleston was a new route this year. The Trojans were in Class 3A as before, but the WVSSAC divided teams into 4 classes for the 1st time. Class 4A is the large urban schools and Class 3A is large more rural schools.
See said classification breakdown is just one aspect of breaking the 56-year barrier between HHS and the state tournament.
“You have to play well, you have to be fortunate, your kids have to stay healthy,” he said. “Sometimes it breaks your way and sometimes it doesn’t.”
It didn’t break Hampshire’s way in 13 tries under 4 different coaches.
See took teams to the brink 8 times, but never broke through — even with a 20-1 squad that was ranked No. 1 in the state 25 years ago.
Jerry Mezzatesta coached the Trojans to the regional finals once and Wayne Mathias did it 3 times.
Hampshire’s last regional heartbreak came in 2015 under Coach Orie Pancione, who was himself a player on the 2007 squad that ended its season in the regional finals.
See said he stood in awe of Alkire and the ’20-21 Trojans.
“I can’t imagine coaching at this time with all the restrictions — never sure who you’re playing, when you’re playing,” See said. “For them to go through all of that and come out on the other side and get to the state tournament — that’s tremendous.”