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Some area schools set to begin winter sports this week, others still on hold
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Some area schools set to begin winter sports this week, others still on hold

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The boys and girls basketball programs from Altavista and Appomattox meet Monday night in a Dogwood District game, signaling the first time local teams in the Virginia High School League have staged any kind of official contest since March. 

Basketball in the Seminole District tips off Thursday, with four games: Brookville vs. Rustburg and Amherst vs. Liberty Christian boys and girls bouts.  

Most high school schedules throughout the Lynchburg area, though, are still in flux. 

Play in the Seminole will be extremely limited until at least Jan. 11, featuring just four of the district's eight schools. All winter sports at E.C. Glass and Heritage were placed on hold until Jan. 11 by the Lynchburg City School Board last month. The board moved winter activities back into Phase 2 guidelines as well, meaning teams can only condition and work out in small pods of five to 10 individuals. 

Overall, the entire prep schedule promises to be odd this winter, with programs at Jefferson Forest, Liberty, Staunton River and Gretna all currently on hold.

Across the area, no one knows for sure if additional teams will be placed on hold in the future. There are no guarantees teams currently on pause will be allowed to begin playing and no assurances those who play this week will be allowed to continue should COVID cases associated with sports arise.    

In Bedford County, JF, Liberty and Staunton River can only play if two key Virginia Department of Health metrics say the county is no longer in the "red zone," or the highest-risk category, the school board there decided last month. 

Teams from Pittsylvania County cannot begin winter sports until Jan. 18, which means they will have just three weeks to play a condensed regular-season schedule before region play begins Feb. 8. Pittsylvania schools include Gretna, Dan River and Chatham in the Dogwood and Tunstall in the Piedmont District. 

Pittsylvania Schools basketball teams can only condition right now and are prohibited from sharing equipment and conducting any sort of group workouts, such as 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 drills. 

One of those schools, Gretna, will feature strong boys and girls teams. The boys squad features junior guard Isaiah Griffin, the 2019 district player of the year who averaged 19.8 points per game as a sophomore last season, and Mekhi Reeves, a versatile 6-foot-5 senior who averaged close to a double-double last season with 17 points and eight rebounds per game. The Gretna girls team showcases senior guard Ty'Nasia Witcher, who led the Lynchburg area in scoring last season at 23.4 ppg, and senior guard Makeyla Mease (18.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg). 

Also in the Dogwood, Nelson County is slated to begin winter sports on Jan. 12. 

The Lynchburg board said Glass and Heritage can begin Jan. 11, a move complicated by the fact coaches may need a few days to install their offensive and defensive schemes and make sure players are in game shape before taking the floor for official contests. 

The pause is not as strict as Bedford's decision, which makes it uncertain if JF, Liberty and Staunton River will be able to stage winter sports at all. If Lynchburg schools return and Bedford remains paused, the Seminole would move ahead with just six teams. 

But there are no guarantee games this week will actually be played, either. Reached by phone over the weekend, coaches echoed the same sentiments. As of right now we're playing, several of them said, adding that could change. 

The Rustburg and Brookville boys game will feature a young Red Devils squad and a Bees team loaded with height and strong guard play. RHS is led by hard-nosed senior guard Landon Sweeney, junior small/power forward Kyle Fields and two freshmen whom coach Troy Harris expects to eat up a ton of minutes: Tayvon Crider and Lawson Sweeney. 

Brookville brings back standout junior guard Tayshawn Butler, 6-foot-2 reliable post player JT Brown and three returners coach Scott Jester expects to receive more playing time: 6-foot-4 forward Jett Miles and guards Colin Ramsey and Garrett Bowles. 

The Brookville girls will have just seven players, including lone senior Kim Brown and juniors Liz Pennington, Nylah Bonds and Kayleigh Dobyns. This week, the Bees face a Rustburg team that returns standouts like Rebekah Funderburk, TaRiya Dawson, Delaney Scharnus and Aysia Jiovenetta.

"But the seven I have, I like," BHS coach Gary Ferguson said. "We'll still be able to compete." 

The Amherst boys will face the Bulldogs and 6-foot-3 senior guard Jalen Leftwich, the reigning district player of the year and a first-team all-state selection in Class 3 last season. Leftwich averaged 16 points, 6.4 rebounds and four assists per game last season for LCA. The Lancers, meanwhile, bring back senior forward Brett Waugh (9.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Marcus Rose (7 ppg). 

The Amherst girls return a strong squad with Kendra Smith (9.3 ppg) and Nadia West (6.1 rpg). LCA is led by Taylor Hartless and Jordyn Robbins. 

Jester, the Brookville boys coach, this weekend said when it comes to postponements or cancellations, "anything could change at any time."

"If we can do it in a safe manner, we're happy to be playing again," Jester added. "The players are definitely excited."

High school sports schedules for Jan. 4 through 9

Monday, Jan. 4

Boys Basketball: Appomattox at Altavista, 7 p.m. 

Girls Basketball: Altavista at Appomattox, 7 p.m. 

Wednesday, Jan. 6

Boys Basketball: Altavista at Cumberland, 5:30 p.m. 

Girls Basketball: Altavista at Cumberland, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 7

Boys Basketball: Liberty Christian at Amherst, 7 p.m. 

Boys Basketball: Brookville at Rustburg, 7 p.m. 

Girls Basketball: Rustburg at Brookville,  7 p.m. 

Girls Basketball: Amherst at Liberty Christian, 7 p.m. 

Saturday, Jan. 9

Girls Basketball: Cumberland at Altavista, 2 p.m. 

Boys Basketball: Cumberland at Altavista, 4 p.m. 

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