Third Wayne-Sissonville meeting comes in Class AA girls state tournament
WAYNE - For the third time in four weeks, the Wayne Lady Pioneers will face off against the Sissonville Indians, and as goes with the trend this season, the stakes surpass those of the previous two meetings.
The first meeting was a pivotal game regarding seeding for the Class AA, Region IV, Section 1 tournament. With a 49-44 win at home over the Indians (21-5), Wayne (22-3) all but secured the No. 2 seed in the section.
Exactly two weeks later, the Pioneers and Indians met in the sectional title game, played at Wayne High School. With a 72-47 win, Wayne earned a home game against Logan in the regional co-finals, while Sissonville hit the road to play Chapmanville.
Having bested the Lady Indians twice, the Pioneers face their Cardinal Conference foe in the opening round of the West Virginia high school Class AA girls basketball state tournament at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, March 7, in the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.
“It’s just the way it worked out this year, I guess. We obviously didn’t have a say in the matter,” Wayne coach Wade Williamson said.
Williamson said he doesn’t expect much to change for their third meeting of the season, though the setting changes dramatically and the stakes are much higher.
“The atmosphere will change for sure, we don’t have the advantage of staying at home like they (Sissonville) do, but you just have to deal with those things,” he said. “I think by this time you are who you are. I’m sure they’ll tweak things and throw something at us that we aren’t ready for. Hopefully we’ll be able to do the same, but you are who you are after 26 games. It always comes down to execution.”
Sissonville is led by Kanawha Valley Player of the Year Laila Arthur, averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4 steals and 4.5 assists per game - filling a large hole for her team after it graduated four of its top six players from last season.
However, in the two previous meetings, Arthur’s production was held to a minimum. Battling flu-like symptoms in the first meeting limited her performance, scoring just nine points in the loss. In the section title game, she scored 15, but the Lady Pioneers still forced her other teammates to make plays where Arthur could not.
“Wayne does a great job of playing two or three kinds of defense,” Sissonville coach Rich Skeen said. “They’ll take you out of your game plan. You don’t have to put new stuff in, you just have to do what you do better than you did it before and we’re working on that.
“So if they’re denying Laila the ball or if she’s coming off a screen and they double her, then OK, what do the rest of your players do? How can you help her? How can you help our team?”
Sissonville returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2014, the freshman season for Marleigh Bays and Arthur.
Wayne finds itself in the tournament field for the second consecutive year after never having been prior to last season. The Lady Pioneers defeated Logan in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament but fell to the Wyoming East Warriors 69-50 in the semis the following day.
“We played in the morning game twice last year, so we’ve lived this situation out before,” Williamson said. “Maybe you can say that’s an advantage for us. You can try to get your team ready to play early like that, because its far different from playing, say, at 7 (in the evening) but it’s hard to prepare for that in the regular season.”