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Around the Hardwoods with Wild Bill

by Bill Turner

The state high school basketball tournament is upon us with four Roanoke-area teams left to hopefully bring home a championship. Here’s a look at who’s still standing and their road to Richmond.

In boys Group AA Division 4 we have two teams in the hunt. By Friday night one will earn a spot in the final-four while the other will see their season come to an end. William Byrd (11-14) takes on Hidden Valley (18-7) at the Salem Civic Center for an 8:45 tipoff in the nightcap of the day-long VHSL quarterfinals. On paper this one looks like a mismatch. Hidden Valley is peaking and took down previously undefeated Christiansburg last Friday night in the Region IV Division 4 final. Byrd got in due to a strange formula despite finishing third in the Blue Ridge and losing to E.C. Glass in the regionals. The game pits veteran Hidden Valley coach Troy Wells, who has three state championships, against Byrd first-year coach Kevin Tuck. The teams split regular season games with Hidden Valley winning by 18 at home and Byrd taking the rematch in Vinton by 2.

Look for Byrd to slow things down to keep the score in the 40s. If Hidden Valley jumps out to a quick start and has its transition game going, this one may be over in a hurry. Prediction: Hidden Valley heads to Richmond

In girls Group AA Division 4, Salem (17-11) tangles with E.C. Glass (16-10) at noon on Saturday at the Salem Civic Center.  After a 2-5 start, Salem has gone 15-6 and is playing its best ball of the season. The Spartans defeated Hidden Valley in the Region IV Division 4 final last Friday night on their home court. Glass lost by 20 to Turner Ashby in the Division 3 final played at TA. Prediction: Salem gets to play close to home. The Spartans shatter the Glass hopes.

After losing to Salem, Hidden Valley (18-8) has to travel to JMU to take on Turner Ashby (18-8) for a 7:15 tipoff Saturday night. The key for Turner Ashby is whether they can find a way to stop prolific Hidden Valley scorer Tyler Evans. If so, the Titans have other players who can pick up the slack, but will they produce in a hostile environment? Randy Bush knows how to motivate these girls. Look for the tie to come off and the sleeves to get rolled up before halftime. Prediction: Hidden Valley in a squeaker.

Moving to the college ranks, the world of basketball is still spinning over Va. Tech’s win over Duke Saturday night. It was like a circus as College GameDay came to the Cassell, fans stormed the court and Dick Vitale high-fived everyone in sight. As I predicted two weeks ago, Tech is firmly in the big dance. Likewise, as I indicated earlier, the Tech dance team did its part in offering a fine bit of distraction. I clearly underestimated the girls in black- not only did Coach K take a couple peeks, but apparently the whole Blue Devil squad did as well.

The question remains, was this more of a statement on ACC basketball than a sudden shakeup of the national rankings? Earlier that afternoon the ACC faithful had to endure the Boston College-UVa undercard in which the Cavs, at home, managed to muster a measly 44 points in a total meltdown. UVa was 4-for-21 from 3-point range and 17-for-53 (32%) from the field. Don’t laugh Hokies; this is the same group that swept the two regular season games against your orange and maroon.

Take away the carnival atmosphere from Saturday night’s feature presentation and you had much of the same. Duke was 4-for-20 from behind the arc and shot under 40% from the field. Tech, not to be outdone, was 39% from the field and was a pathetic 8-for-19 from the free throw line. Considering they use the same size ball, same size rim and same shooting distance, one would be hard-pressed to find a high school team shooting that poorly from the charity stripe. The jury’s still out, but make no mistake about it-at the big dance, performances like these will send the ACC packing in a hurry.

Congratulations go out to the Lady Maroons of Roanoke College who took Randolph-Macon to overtime before losing in the ODAC final Sunday. Roanoke looked to have this one until a last-second desperation shot fell for Macon in regulation. It was another great season for Susan Dunagan, who in her 29th year at the helm, continues to lead Roanoke with class and character. Hats off to Roanoke.

Now to the infamous mailbag, where last week’s tutorial on pianos brought out the letters.

Dear Wild One: Your memory must be failing. I distinctly remember being in your class at Oak Grove Elementary where we both played in the flute-o-fone band. How could you forget? (Emma/Franklin Co.)

Answer: Easily, Emma. That flute-o-fone racket sounded like a herd of misguided camels. Even Lady Gaga wouldn’t endorse that clamor.

Dear Maestro Bill: I’d like to play the piano like Liberace. What can you tell me about his eccentric life? (Bob/South Boston)

Answer: Well, his stage name at one time was Walter Busterkeys, he once had a swimming pool shaped like a piano, he owned 39 grand pianos, has 2 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and (here’s the answer you been waiting for) he called the top of a piano the lid, demanding it be Plexiglas so TV viewers and the live audience could see his face.  See readers, you’ll learn something when you read my column.

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