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Parkersburg wins home opener and hands CMHS second loss, 63-49

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — After playing their first fifteen games of the season on the road or at neutral sites, Parkersburg took advantage of their first home game, defeating Cabell Midland 63-49.

The two-time defending Class AAA state champions jumped out to a sizable early lead and fended off several Knight runs to stay unbeaten in MSAC play.

“First home game of the year so you are curious how they are going to come out with adrenaline,” said Parkersburg head coach Scott Cozzens. “We had kind of a rough start to the first quarter but we got it going.”

The Big Reds jumped out to a 17-9 lead after the first quarter and kept that eight-point cushion into halftime, leading 34-26. The Knights crept within seven points in the fourth but an 8-0 run from the Big Reds put the game out of reach.

Maddi Leggett led PHS (11-5) with 14 points. Maggie Richards and Kirsten Roberts each added 11 points.

“Maddi has had a great year. She has improved so much year-to-year. She is really the engine that makes us go. We are real proud of how she has played all year.”

Rylie Allie led the Knights (13-2) with 18 points and Autumn Lewis added 15. They have dropped back-to-back contests after a 13-0 start.

The Big Reds have played almost half of their schedule to date at tournaments in South Carolina and Tennessee in late December. Cozzens says the team still has room to improve. “I think we are going to get better. We still have room to grow.”

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WVU basketball notebook: Huggins says Matthews is fine after scary fall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Fortunately for West Virginia, Emmitt Matthews is far more durable than Humpty Dumpty ever was.

Matthews took a great fall in Saturday’s 74-51 win over Missouri, hitting the ground violently when he drew a foul early in the second half. Matthews left the game for the training room after his free throw attempts, then returned to the bench where he stayed for the remainder of the game.

Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said the sophomore forward is good to go for Wednesday night’s game at Texas Tech.

“Emmitt’s fine,” Huggins said. “Whatever happened, he’s making shots again. The next time he starts missing shots, I might tackle him. Because he’s shooting really good again.”

Goalkeeper instincts pay off for Tshiebwe

The Mountaineers almost witnessed a much scarier tumble in the latter stages of Saturday’s game.

Oscar Tshiebwe was upended attempting to complete an alley-oop dunk attempt with just under 4 minutes remaining, and for a split-second his trajectory towards the floor was headfirst.

Many fans had already begun filing out of WVU Coliseum, but those still in attendance let out an audible collective gasp for that moment Tshiebwe looked to be headed for a potentially catastrophic injury in a game that was already out of hand.

“It was kind of scary,” Tshiebwe admitted. “Every time I jump, when you’re falling down — I know how to touch down.”

Tshiebwe somehow contorted himself in a manner that moved the brunt of the fall to his lower body, resulting in no harm done. He credits his experience as a soccer goalkeeper growing up in the Democratic Republic of The Congo for teaching him how to land softly from midair, as that is the entire nature of playing that position.

“You’ve got to know how you’re going down,” Tshiebwe said.

Sherman rounding into form

Putting the ball in the bucket was never a challenge for guard Taz Sherman at the junior college level. He was averaging 26 points per game in the Texas district that’s widely regarded as the tops in all of juco.

But things haven’t clicked for him yet at West Virginia, where he has been held scoreless in seven of the games he’s appeared in this season. With the exception of the Ohio State game, he saw at least five minutes of action in all of those outings.

Sherman’s past two outings give hope that he’s turned the corner. He scored seven points against Texas and nine against Missouri. Though both games were out of hand when he went on his scoring binges, the hope is those performances will be a springboard to him delivering for the Mountaineers in the clutch.

“The confidence excelled the Texas game,” Sherman said. “Then in practice, I was making a lot of shots. I knew I could perform [against Missouri].”

Huggins said that Sherman is actually showing much more improvement as a defensive player. Given his role in juco, Sherman was not expected to be a lockdown defender.

“He’s worked like crazy,” Huggins said. “He wasn’t a very good defender, which he shouldn’t have been because you don’t want your guy getting 30 a game to get into foul trouble.

“He’s worked at it and gotten better and better. And the ball has started going in for him. Seeing the ball go in makes a world of difference.”

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McKinley introduces resolution suppoting minor league teams during MLB restructure plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) is one of four representatives that introduced a resolution in Congress to help dozens of minor league baseball teams avoid being cut.

On Tuesday, McKinley joined Lori Trahan (D-MA), Max Rose (D-NY), and Mike Simpson (R-NY), the co-chairs of the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force, to introduce the resolution expressing the sense of Congress that Major League Baseball (MLB) should maintain the current minor league structure rather than proceed with its plan to eliminate 42 minor league clubs, per release.

“I want to be careful that the government doesn’t have a role to step in and save this,” McKinley said recently on MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

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U.S. Rep. David McKinley, D-W.Va.

“What we can do is make sure that Minor League Baseball is on a level playing field of negotiations as they try to figure out how to survive on being in the minor leagues.”

This comes on the heels of MLB and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) discussing an update to its working agreement, with a proposal that would cut a quarter of the country’s minor league teams.

Included in the proposal that would lose affiliations with MLB teams are the Charleston-based West Virginia Power (South Atlantic League), Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian League) and the Princeton Rays (Appalachian League).

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said the cuts are because of poor team facilities, traveling because of relocation, poor pay for players and the retainment of players who likely will not play in MLB.

“There are consequences of what is going to happen in Bluefield, Princeton, Charleston. For them (MLB) to say that that stadium built in 2005 in Charleston is inadequate is just wrong,” McKinley said.

Freezing the number of teams for multiple years and letting teams work on their stadiums for a couple of years are possible solutions, McKinley said.

He has added that MLB is listening to Congress because they have “the heavy hammer” in regards to tax reform and labor issues.

In November, more than 100 members of Congress joined together on a letter to MLB expressing opposition to the MLB plan.

McKinley’s office said the resolution demonstrates that minor league clubs and the communities for which they play are not without support in Congress.

Furthermore, it reflects Congress’ interest in ensuring fair negotiations between MLB and MiLB, per release.

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Hanshaw responds with door rules after decision in Caputo case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw didn’t mention any names but he was clearly responding to this week’s decision by a Kanawha County circuit judge when he made remarks at the end of Tuesday’s floor session.

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Roger Hanshaw

Hanshaw said he had instructed the House’s sergeant-at-arms and doorkeepers to keep all but the rear doors of the House chamber sealed while the House is conducting opening exercises during its daily floor sessions.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman dismissed a battery charge against Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, Monday. He said Caputo was under legislative immunity when he forced his way into the House during last year’s session. Caputo was mad about a anti-Muslim display during Republican Day and entered the chamber as the session was beginning. An assistant doorkeeper was hurt in the incident.

Hanshaw said Tuesday his instructions are to keep the rear door entrance accessible to members at all times.

“Including the opening exercises,” Hanshaw told the House.

He added members would be asked to stay in the House’s rear vestibule until after the prayer and pledge of allegiance are over but said they wouldn’t be stopped.

“(They’ll) ask for your cooperation in not entering the chamber during the conduct of those exercises but will not stop you from doing so,” Hanshaw said. “The rear doors of this chamber will be accessible to members at all times when this house is called to order.”

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Lincoln County community down but not out following church fire

SWEETLAND, W.Va. — A Lincoln County community is left reeling following an early morning blaze that gutted the building housing Middle Fork Baptist Church.

Multiple emergency crews responded to the fire at the Sweetland at around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and fought the flames for more than five hours.

Daniel Salmons, a deacon at the church, tells MetroNews he heard about the fire when he woke up Tuesday morning when he got a call from a Sunday school teacher.

“I was sick to my stomach. Then when I turned the corner here in my vehicle, I got sicker to my stomach,” Salmons said.

Upon arrival, crews from Hamlin, Duval, West Hamlin, and Morrisvale volunteer fire departments were working on flames coming from the back of the building’s roof near the kitchen area.

Fire officials were scheduled to arrive back on the state Route 3 scene mid-Tuesday afternoon but preliminary reports indicate the fire may have been electrical and started in the kitchen area. No one was injured.

The damage was extensive with most parts of the roof collapsed. A few items in the kitchen area remained untouched along with some bibles in the rubble and the wooden cross standing in front of the church.

Current scene at the Middle Fork Baptist Church in the Sweetland community of Lincoln County. Officials say the church caught fire around 1:30 am this morning. I spoke with the deacon of the church. Hear from him this afternoon: @WVMetroNews @580WCHS pic.twitter.com/C77zt2UMQs

— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) January 28, 2020

According to Salmons, the church known as “The Little Church on the Hill” was built in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He said 85 people attended this past Sunday morning worship service. The previous Sunday, nearly 100 parishioners were inside.

“There is a lot of fond memories here,” Salmons said. “When you’ve been here so long at a little country church, you know everybody in the community. Even if they don’t come you know everybody here.

“There has been a lot of people stopping today (Tuesday) that don’t come to this church but they are stopping to see about the church and helping.”

One of those that stopped by was Rick Walls, the deacon at neighboring Middle Creek Baptist Church. He told MetroNews that his church is opening its doors to those at Middle Fork.

“This was the devil’s work,” Walls said. “It’s a sad situation, that’s what I was thinking. It’s a sad situation for anyone. This could happen to anyone. It’s going to be a setback to the entire community.”

Walls said Middle Fork has recently added onto the old church just in the past couple of years including a new baptism area.

Salmons said multiple churches, including Middle Creek, have reached out to offer help and its building for service. He said he is hopeful the Middle Fork community will be back together again in the same place for worship at some point.

“The earliest we will be back here is December probably,” he said. “That would be if everything goes well. That would be a good Christmas gift, I think. That’s our goal but the recovery just started today (Tuesday).”

West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office is leading the investigation.

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State road leaders say more contractors on maintenance jobs won’t save the state money

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Both state Transportation Secretary Byrd White and Deputy Highways Commissioner Jimmy Wriston spoke out against a bill Tuesday being considered by the state Senate Transportation Committee that calls for the state to use contractors on road maintenance jobs currently handled by the Division of Highways.

Byrd White

The bill, SB 162, includes several proposals focusing on road maintenance but it was a contractor section that got the most attention Tuesday from White and Wriston.

According to the bill, DOH districts would be authorized to hire contractors if 70 percent of core maintenance projects from the year before aren’t completed.

“These repairs shall include, but are not limited to, pothole repair, paving, ditching, and mowing on and along each district’s roadways,” the bill said.

White said he believes the DOH does better work with routine maintenance than contractors.

“This would require us to use private contractors when our experience thus far has not been very good,” White said.

White said he believes contractors do a decent job on patching roads but not so much on ditching along highways.

“We found that there quality was nowhere near good enough to meet our standards and it cost almost five times as much per shoulder mile for what we could do it for,” White said. “It means we get less work done at a lower quality.”

Senator Bob Beach inquired about the possibility of using contractors for snow and ice removal. Wriston said some states have tried it but are now going back in-house.

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Jimmy Wriston

“The success initially seemed like it was going in the right direction but they’ve since been revamping that and backing away from that,” Wriston said. “Just about every state that I’ve known that have went down that road they are now backing away from it.”

Wriston added DOH staffing levels continue to increase.

“We’re probably closing in on having 5,200 people working in the Division of Highways and we are close to reestablishing what are quotas are,” Wriston said.

The state began a major push nine months ago on road maintenance projects. White said Tuesday much has been accomplished including the ditching of more than 34 percent of the state’s highways. He said they are ahead of pace of ditching highways at least once every three years.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, decided not to bring the bill up for a vote Tuesday. He said he planned to get the stakeholders together to discuss it before putting back on the committee’s agenda.

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House passes bill requiring cursive writing to be taught through fifth grade

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill requiring cursive writing to be taught in all West Virginia schools in grades 3-5 passed the House of Delegates easily on Tuesday.

In a roll call of 87 in favor, eight against and five not voting, the bill moved to the state Senate for consideration.

Delegate Joe Ellington (R-Mercer), chair of the House Education Committee, called the legislation getting back to the basics of education.

Joe Ellington

“The concern is that things aren’t being taught properly like cursive, ” Ellington said on the floor. “Now some of our students are getting taught and learning this. Some of our great teachers are doing a very good job with this but apparently, some are falling through the cracks.”

The bill, House Bill 4089, will amend the Code of West Virginia,1931. That current code states that cursive is required in grades 2-4. Ellington said second grade will still be required to learn cursive, if developmentally acceptable.

He further said on the floor that there is no fiscal note on the numbers of students being taught and not being taught cursive in schools right now. He believes that educators will not see a problem with this new requirement.

“Out of committee, all the teachers I have talked to 100 percent were in favor of doing this. I don’t think you’ll get any resistance there,” Ellington said.

Delegate John Kelly (R-Wood) was one of two delegates that spoke on the floor before passage. He said the bill backs the talk from the House about increasing education and helping students.

John Kelly

“These young gentlemen and ladies who were in that small group of people who were not taught cursive…they can’t read the Constitution of the United States,” Kelly said.

“They can’t read the Declaration of Independence. They are all written in cursive.”

This amendment under Article 2 of the State Board of Education section will be known as the “Gertrude Martin Act.” The name is in appreciation of the bill’s sponsor, Rodney Pyles‘ (D-Monongalia) third grade teacher.

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Virginia migration invitation gets a boost from West Virginia Governor Justice

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  Gov. Jim Justice issued an overt invitation today for Virginia individuals and counties to make a break for the border.

“If you’re not truly happy where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia or wherever you may be,” Justice said today during an appearance in Martinsburg, just a few miles from the Virginia line.

Justice appeared with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the famed evangelist, who also expressed support for a Virginia exodus — already becoming known as Vexit.

Justice was prompted by a couple of resolutions pending in West Virginia’s House of Delegates that would invite Virginia counties to link up with the state that split away in 1863.

But overriding the pitch was the current state of Virginia politics.

In Virginia, Democrats have the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature. They have used the new legislative majorities to push legislation that would expand access to abortion and voting, a ban on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, background checks for gun owners and an increase in the minimum wage.

That has resulted in pushback such as “Second Amendment sanctuaries” against gun control laws passed by the state.

As in many states, the political divide is largely between urban and rural areas.

Governor Justice, a Republican who won office as a Democrat, suggested that Virginia’s rural counties might have more in common with West Virginia.

“We stand strongly behind the Second Amendment and we stand strongly behind the unborn,” said Justice, whose re-election bid has opposition in both the upcoming primary and general elections.

His pitch came at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in a growing area of West Virginia.

This entire issue came up a few weeks ago with a resolution sponsored by Senator Charles Trump, R-Morgan. His resolution renews a longstanding invitation for Frederick County, Va., to join West Virginia.

The Senate passed it earlier this month, and it has gone to West Virginia’s House of Delegates for further consideration.

Then another, bigger, broader one invites any Virginia county with widespread feeling of neglect by the capital in Richmond to take a vote and switch states. That one with 38 sponsors out of West Virginia’s 100 delegates is awaiting further action.

But the main sponsor, Government Organization Chairman Gary Howell, has been making a round of media appearances. On Tuesday, he was chatting with conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck followed by an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“This is a big deal. This is the greatest opportunity to expand the state of West Virginia since 1863,” Howell said from an office at West Virginia’s capital where, behind him, were a hanging quilt and a mounted deer head.

“If you look at a lot of the people in the Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge and even the south side of Virginia, they’re very similar culturally, demographically, and a lot of the geography is the same. They share more with us than they do with Tidewater, Richmond and Northern Virginia. We look at it like, they’re coming home.”

Jerry Falwell Jr.

Falwell, standing alongside West Virginia’s governor, said he likes the idea.

“I would vote for it,” Falwell said of a possible referendum.

Falwell and Justice said their families had known each other for many years. Falwell said his son alerted him to the invitation to Virginia counties and he followed up by reaching out to Justice. He said they had been on the phone together every night for about a week, leading to the joint appearance.

“The palpable yearning in Virginia for greater freedom with our family in West Virginia grows greater by the day,” Falwell said in comments that he read aloud.

Falwell acknowledged the entire notion is a longshot, depending largely on grassroots support.

“It’s a rare opportunity,” he said. “I don’t think opportunities like this come along in history very often.”

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Sister of WVU student killed in drunk driving crash says her sister was a good person

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Pennsylvania State Police now say it was a drunk driver who struck a vehicle transporting a pair of WVU students last weekend near Philadelphia, claiming the life of one student and injuring a second.

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Chloe Robertson

According to authorities, Chloe Robertson, 21, a WVU senior from Orlando, Florida, and Bobbiann Gubbei , also a senior from Mantua, New Jersey, were traveling in an Uber Saturday night when they were hit by an unnamed driver

Robertson was killed instantly. Gubbei suffered two broken femurs, pelvic fractures, lacerations and a broken arm. The Uber driver was treated for a concussion and lacerations.

Chloe Robertson’s sister, Lauren Robertson, 25, of Orlando, spoke with MetroNews affiliate WAJR Radio in Morgantown Tuesday. She said her sister was happy and looking forward to 2020.

“Her stories that were up (on social media) before she passed away, you could tell she was having the time of her life, but she had alcohol and knew she had to take an Uber home,” Robertson said. “She did the responsible thing and someone else did the irresponsible thing.”

Lauren Robertson said the man involved in the crash had recently gone through a tragedy of his own.

“The person that ended up killing Chloe had lost a member of their family the week before in a similar incident,” Robertson said. “They were out getting hammered and got behind the wheel of that car knowing the pain and heartache they would cause and knowing what it felt like.”

Both Robertson and Gubbei majored in criminology at WVU. Sister Lauren, said Chloe developed a passion for criminal justice by watching Criminal Minds.

“Chloe was a caring individual and the stories were children being abducted and most of the endings were happy,” Lauren said. “I think Chloe wanted to know what it was like to bring that joy back to someone’s face.”

The deadly crash remains under investigation.

Lauren said when she thinks of her sister she thinks of the word good.

“Good is such a reoccurring word that people use. She was a good friend. She was a good sister. She was a good daughter and she was going to be a great maid-of-honor.”

Chloe was going to be her sister’s maid-of-honor in Lauren’s April 20 wedding, which would have been Chloe’s 22nd birthday.

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Class AAA basketball midseason update

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Greg Carey and Joe Brocato take a midseason look at the Class AAA boys and girls basketball picture as we turn the corner into February.

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