A state tournament feel could hover in the air for tonight's "Shootout at the Big House'' taking place at the Charleston Civic Center.
And well it should.
All four of the Class AAA boys basketball teams participating in today's event - South Charleston, Wheeling Park, Logan and George Washington - are among the usual suspects at the state tournament every March. All four have made it there the last two seasons, and Logan and GW, in fact, are the past two state champions.
Top-ranked SC (17-2) takes on No. 6 Park (13-5) at approximately 4:45 p.m., and the teams tied for eighth in this week's AAA poll - GW (12-5) and Logan (13-5) - tangle at about 8:15.
But sandwiched between those tantalizing triple-A tussles is perhaps the game of the night.
The Class AA showdown between No. 4 Tug Valley (15-2) and No. 5 Tolsia (13-4) is, at the very least, the equal of any of the other games on today's five-game boys card at the Shootout.
Not only does it pit two of the state's top-five teams in the rankings, but it very well could decide the top seed in the power-packed Region 4 Section 2 grouping later this month that includes Chapmanville and Mingo Central.
As if that wasn't enough, there is star power on the floor in the form of Jacob Copley, Tolsia's 6-foot-3 senior forward. Copley carries a 21-point scoring average and his athleticism has helped make him a cult hero in the southern coalfields.
In football, Copley both ran and passed for 1,000 yards in his senior season; in basketball, some of his spectacular dunks are all the rage on Internet message boards, including a pair last Friday against Chapmanville.
"In our eyes in this area, he's one of the better players in the state, and not just double-A,'' said Tolsia coach Jason Hatfield. "Maybe I'm a little bit biased, but if you get out and watch some games, he has to be one of the best players in West Virginia. He handles the ball, he shoots it pretty well. As some people saw in the Chapmanville game, he's definitely pretty explosive when he goes to the basket.''
Tug won't be without its own firepower, as 5-11 junior Mikey Newsome (16.7), 6-9 senior Mason Pack (15.0) and 6-0 junior Austin Brewer (12.3) all average in double figures. Copley is backed by Morgan Stacy (13.2) and its own Austin Brewer (11.0).
"It's a prime-time game,'' said Tug Valley coach Garland Thompson. "They've got a good basketball team, and I know they'll be ready to play. The thing is both of us play [Tuesday night], then we both have to get up and travel for this one. But it's one to get excited about.''
Perhaps a little too much excitement has kept the power programs, separated by less than 40 miles, from playing recently.
Thompson said both ends of a home-and-home series were wiped out by snow a few years back, but events taking place inside the gym have been the culprit in recent seasons.