FRANKLIN, W.Va. -- The Pendleton County High School boys basketball team was set to make its first-ever state tournament appearance this season.
The Pendleton County High School boys basketball team was set to make its first-ever state tournament appearance this season.
"That's been our goal forever," said junior forward Bailey Thompson.
Thompson and his teammates clinched a spot in West Virginia's Class A state tournament bracket with a 45-38 region final win over Trinity Christian in Franklin on Wednesday, March 11. The Wildcats rallied from a nine-point fourth quarter deficit to claim victory in front of a packed house in Pendleton County's home gym. With the victory, PC improved to 23-0 overall on the season.
"That was ultimately the milestone we were after," said Pendleton County head coach Ryan Lambert. "We weren't going to be happy with just that but that's what the goal was at the beginning of the year and then moving forward."
However, while the Wildcats and their fans were still celebrating, they learned they might not even take the floor at the state tournament in Charleston, West Virginia.
"We got news the very next day," said Lambert. "I got news around two o'clock or three o'clock...less than 24 hours later that we were shut down."
Just a day after Pendleton County clinched a state berth, high school basketball competition was postponed in the Mountain State due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
"I really feel bad for our seniors because I have another year but our four dudes who won't be here next year don't, so you definitely feel for them," said Thompson, who is the Potomac Valley Conference Player of the Year.
While the high school basketball season in West Virginia is not officially cancelled at this time, it seems unlikely teams will compete again in 2019-2020. No matter what happens, Pendleton County's season will go down as one of the best in school history.
"It was magical, it was wonderful," said Lambert. "These kids should be celebrated and they'll always be remembered for that first group that was able to get through that regional strangle that had been upon us over the last 20+ years."