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LOGAN — It could be the best team the Logan High School girls’ basketball squad has fielded since the Shayna Gore era.

That’s how high the optimism is for Coach Kevin Gertz and the Lady Cats heading into the 2020-21 season.

The Lady Cats graduated no seniors from last year’s 10-15 team, and with all of their starters back, a talented transfer, other players coming back into the program and a good group of incoming freshmen, all things look bright for the Logan girls.

The pollsters seem to think so as well.

In the West Virginia Sports News Girls Basketball Preseason Poll, Logan was ranked No. 5 in the state in Class AAA.

Wayne and Huntington St. Joe, two new sectional opponents for the Lady Cats, were ranked sixth and seventh respectively. Lincoln County, another 3A sectional team, was ranked ninth.

St. Joe, a former Class A state powerhouse, won seven straight state titles from 2009-15 and also took state crowns in 2017 and 2019. The Irish were state runner-ups in 2016 and 2018. St. Joe played in every Class A state final from 2009-19.

North Marion was first, Fairmont Senior second, Nitro third and Lincoln fourth. Wheeling Central was eighth and Grafton 10th.

This year, West Virginia is implementing its new four-class program and Logan basketball is back in the Triple-A ranks.

Logan’s schedule also reflects that change as several new foes are on the slate.

The Lady Cats, which were scheduled to open the season on Dec. 3 at home against Poca in a Cardinal Conference game, had several interesting matchups this season.

The basketball season, however, and all winter sports, have been delayed until Jan. 11 by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The most interesting matchup was a home-and-away series with St. Albans, which is led by Gore, the second-year Red Dragons’ coach.

Logan was to play at St. Albans on Dec. 21 and then host the Red Dragons on Jan. 9 at Logan’s Willie Akers Arena.

Both games, however, appear like they will not happen.

Last year during a preseason scrimmage, Logan played at St. Albans in Gore’s unofficial head coaching debut.

Gertz famously set up a practical joke on Gore, having one of the officials call a technical foul on Gore right after the game’s opening tip.

“I wonder if we can do that during the regular season?” Gertz joked. “She don’t need any help getting technical fouls. I told her that she got more technical fouls in one season that I have in 20-plus years in coaching basketball combined. She gets her hotheadedness from her mommy and daddy. You can quote me on that and you can put LOL on the end.”

St. Albans and Logan were originally going to play just one game this season.

“Shayna is bringing them down to our shootout and we’ll be playing there as well,” Gertz said. “She needed another game and she asked if we could come down there.”

Logan was also scheduled to play home-and-away series with its sectional foes Huntington St. Joe, Lincoln County, Wayne and Scott.

A home-and-away series with county rival and Double-A Chapmanville was also on the schedule.

In addition, Logan had a two-game series with Mingo Central and a single game against Shady Spring.

Logan lost 46-44 to Lincoln County in the Class AA Region 4 Section 2 championship game last season at Chapmanville Regional High School, and then bowed out with a 58-31 loss at Winfield in one of the two regional co-finals.

Logan routed Scott, 60-37, in the sectional opener, and then upset No. 1 seed and county rival Chapmanville, 39-37, in the sectional semifinals at Mingo Central.

Just like last season, the Lady Cats lack height, but have plenty of quick guards and small forwards who can shoot, defend and take it to the paint.

Jill Tothe, a 5-foot-7 guard, and Raegan Quick, a 5-6 post player, are Logan’s two returning senior players.

Tothe, a top 3-point shooter, averaged 10.2 points a game last season and was Second-Team All-Cardinal Conference. Quick was named Honorable Mention All-Conference.

Peyton Ilderton, a 5-6 junior guard and the team’s top scorer comes back.

Emma Elkins, a 5-7 junior forward, returns for the Lady Cats as well.

Sophomore point guard Natalie Blankenship (4-11) also comes back. She started as a frosh last season.

Autumn Adkins, a 5-9 sophomore, is back as well as Alyssa Goff, a 5-9 junior

Incoming freshman Harlee Quick, Raegan’s little sister, is also expected to contribute.

Logan also welcomes in transfer Abbie Myers of Chapmanville. Myers transferred to Logan for the second semester last season. She had been the Lady Tigers’ sixth man off the bench.

Senior Reyvin Cottle is also back on the team after taking a season off.

Sophomores Breanna Buskirk and Rylee Conn and freshman Tracsette Elmore round out the roster.

Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at padkins@hdmediallc.com