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Semifinalists lead way on Class AAA all-state team; Goins, Washentiz chosen co-captains

— by Bradley Heltzel, Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — All season long, it was a quartet of teams that stood amongst the best in Class AAA. Once the state tournament got underway in Charleston, the top four seeds of Fairmont Senior, North Marion, Nitro and Logan proved they were indeed a cut above the rest as each rolled into the state semifinals.

Ultimately, Nitro came out on top of the four-way battle royale to win its first state championship with a stunning 51-45 state title game victory over Fairmont Senior.

But it was all four of Nitro, Fairmont Senior, North Marion and Logan that proved their collective merit. After all, those four teams compiled a combined record of 62-7 (.899) for the season, with four of those seven losses coming against one another.

In recognition of the quality of all four teams and the prestige of the stars that power each of them, Nitro, Fairmont Senior, North Marion and Logan were each well-represented on the Class AAA all-state teams, as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. The foursome combined to claim six of the eight all-state first team spots and eight of the 16 all-state spots overall.

Nitro senior guard Baylee Goins and Fairmont Senior junior guard Marley Washenitz headlined the group as Class AAA all-state first team co-captains. The much-acclaimed duo, which led their teams to a combined 35-2 record, also split the 2021 Mary Ostrowski Award as the co-state players of the year announced last week.

“I can’t say enough about Baylee — it’s night in and night out she’s getting double teamed and triple teamed and she just stays so composed. She doesn’t get frustrated, she doesn’t run her mouth, she doesn’t do anything (like that),” Nitro coach Pat Jones said. “I told Baylee her freshman year that we were going to set goals each year, and Baylee knew to bring a state title back to Nitro was the ultimate goal.”

“You don’t want your players to have a definition, you want them to be basketball players, and Marley fills the stat sheet,” Fairmont Senior coach Corey Hines said. “In the fourth quarter, I think by far, Marley’s one of the best. A lot of people will harp on what she can’t do, or try to find something (off) in her game, but out of anyone in the state, that’s who I want to go with.”

Fairmont Senior’s Marley Washenitz is a co-captain on the Class AAA all-state team. Photo by Eddie Ferrari

Washenitz is joined on the all-state first team by her teammate and close friend Meredith Maier, after Maier transferred to Fairmont Senior from Grafton before the season and put up a monster campaign of 18.5 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 4.7 steals and 1.6 blocks a game in her debut season with the Polar Bears.

A pair of North Marion players also garnered first team honors with sophomore forward Olivia Toland and senior guard Karlie Denham each representing the Huskies, while Logan junior guard Peyton Ilderton made the first team as well.

Toland averaged a team-best 20.7 points and over four steals a game for North Marion, while Denham posted a full line of 13.6 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds a game. Ilderton, meanwhile, scored 21.5 points a game for the Wildcats, to go with 6.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 steals a game.

St. Joseph Central’s Amya Damon and PikeView’s Hannah Perdue nabbed the two remaining spots on the first team. Perdue averaged 26.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game to power the Panthers back to the state tournament despite mass graduation losses, while Damon transferred to St. Joe’s from Greenbrier East prior to the season and starred for coach Shannon Lewis’ squad with 21.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.3 steals a game.

Robert C. Byrd’s Victoria Sturm captained the all-state second team. Sturm, who transferred to the Eagles from Lincoln, averaged a team-high 18.1 points a game, to go with 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.5 steals a game.

Nitro and North Marion each landed players on the second team, with junior guard Taylor Maddox representing the state champion Wildcats after a breakout state tournament, and junior center Katlyn Carson nabbing a spot for the Huskies to give them a state-best three representatives on the all-state teams.

Maddox led all players in scoring at the Class AAA state tournament with 57 total points across three games to lead Nitro’s championship charge, while Carson was an all-around stalwart for the Huskies with a near-triple-double average of 13.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.8 blocks a game.

The rest of the all-state second team was made up of Wheeling Central’s Marisa Horan; Wayne’s Alana Eves; Midland Trail’s Emily Dickerson; Winfield’s Meghan Taylor; and Oak Glen’s Reece Enochs.

Class AAA All-State Girls Basketball Team

As Selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association

First Team 

Marley Washenitz, Fairmont Senior; Jr. (Co-captain)

Baylee Goines, Nitro; Sr. (Co-captain)

Peyton Ilderton, Logan; Jr.

Meredith Maier, Fairmont Senior; Jr.

Amya Damon, Huntington St. Joe; Jr.

Hannah Perdue, PikeView; Jr.

Olivia Toland, North Marion; Soph.

Karlie Denham, North Marion; Sr.

Second Team 

Marisa Horan, Wheeling Central , Sr.

Taylor Maddox, Nitro; Soph.

Victoria Sturm, Robert C. Byrd, Sr. (Captain).

Alana Eves, Wayne, Sr.

Emily Dickerson, Midland Trail; Sr.

Meghan Taylor, Winfield, Soph.

Kaitlyn Carson, North Marion; Jr.

Reece Enochs, Oak Glen, Sr.

Honorable Mention: Isabella Aperfine, Weir; Hannah Ault, Hampshire; Anna Belan, Elkins; Laynie Beresford, Fairmont Senior; Brooklyn Bowen, Nitro; Anyah Brown, PikeView; Emma Cayton, Lewis County; Kaili Crowl, Keyser; Emily Denison, Philip Barbour; Sydney Farmer, Sissonville; Hannah Ferris, Lincoln; Emma Elliott, Liberty Harrison; Gracie Fields, Hampshire; Alexus Greenlief, Oak Glen; McKennan Hall, Ripley; Alyssa Hill, Philip Barbour; Olivia Krinov, Lewis County; Avery Lucas, Lincoln County; Leah Maley, Weir; Alexis O’Dell, Nicholas County; Julia Preseruati, St. Joseph; Taylor Ray, Herbert Hoover; Kierra Richmond, Shady Spring; Alyssa Satterfield, Grafton; Alexa Shoemaker, Keyser; Braylyn Sparks, Philip Barbour; Emily Starn, Fairmont Senior; Emily Suddreth, Independence; Jill Tothe, Logan; Tristen White, Wheeling Central

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Man dead in Lincoln County house fire

HARTS CREEK, W.Va. — The state Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating a fatal fire that occurred Wednesday evening in Lincoln County.

A 70-year-old man died as a result of the fire at a home near the intersection of state Route 10 and Dry Branch Road in Harts Creek.

There’s no word yet on what caused the blaze.

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MetroNews This Morning 5-13-18

Governor Justice say the gift cards rewarding those under age 35 for getting a Covid vaccine are on the way. The state is ready to begin administering Pfizer vaccinations to those ages 12 to 15 in W.Va. The extra unemployment benefit those out of work have gotten for the last several months due to the pandemic, may end early. First Lady Jill Biden comes to West Virginia today. Families of the victims of those killed by a former employee of the Clarksburg V-A react to her sentence. In sports, a WVU golfer gets an individual at-large bid into the NCAA tourney and the Mountain East Conference baseball tournament start today. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 5-13-21” on Spreaker.

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Reta Mays May Be Responsible For More Deaths Than She Has Admitted

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s investigation into the murders of veterans at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg has left open the possibility that Reta Mays is responsible for more deaths than she has admitted.

Tuesday, Mays was sentenced to life in prison for murdering seven veterans, and assault with intent to murder an eighth veteran, by injecting them with fatal doses of insulin which triggered hypoglycemia.  The Veterans Administration has settled lawsuits holding the former overnight nurses’ aide responsible for two additional deaths.

That is ten total deaths, and the criminal investigation is closed.  However, an appendix in the OIG report raises the issue of other potential victims, though it does not specifically attribute the deaths to Mays.

Reta Mays

“We have not found that yet [emphasis added],” Michael Missal, Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” told me on Talkline Wednesday.

Missal said investigators examined every death that occurred in the ward where Mays worked.  Sixty-six of those patients had at least one hypoglycemic event, which can occur naturally or unnaturally when insulin is administered.

Missal then chose his words carefully.  “We didn’t see any others that rose to a criminal level where you can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”  That is a high standard, and one that is not easy for prosecutors to meet.

The OIG then made a point to leave the door open to further investigation.  “We have asked the VA to have people from outside Clarksburg look at any patients where there were quality health concerns,” Missal said. “We will be monitoring what the VA is doing and if they find others that raise issues then we will pursue them.”

“So, our work is not done,” he said. “We’re going to continue to follow through.”

Throughout the investigation there has always been the suggestion that the serial killer’s death toll would rise. Charleston Attorney Tony O’Dell, who is representing families of many of the victims, believes Mays killed more than ten veterans.

O’Dell said 21 patients on the floor where Mays worked died within 24 hours of the patient’s expected discharge or being moved to a lower level of care. “These people were not dying,” O’Dell said.

“The report leaves little doubt that Reta Mays killed or caused harm to many more veterans than she has admitted to,” O’Dell said.  “Many families deserve to know what the VA and the OIG know.”


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Manchin joining Biden, Garner on West Virginia trip
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Office of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will join First Lady Jill Biden and actress Jennifer Garner on their trip Thursday to West Virginia.

Biden, Garner and Manchin will visit a coronavirus vaccination site at Capital High School, where the three will also deliver remarks.

The first lady and Garner were originally scheduled to visit Arnoldsburg Elementary School in Calhoun County; the school system in on remote learning because of coronavirus-related issues.

The three will arrive and depart from Charleston’s Yeager Airport, and the three will speak to members of the West Virginia National Guard before leaving West Virginia.

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RCB ends Bridgeport’s 12-game winning streak, 7-4

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Robert C. Byrd scored six unanswered runs to hand Bridgeport their first loss in their last 13 games. The Flying Eagles posted three-run frames in the fifth and sixth innings to win 7-4 at the Bridgeport Baseball Complex.

Less than 24 hours earlier, RCB (12-3) squandered multiple late leads against another Class AAA power Morgantown before falling 13-12 in nine innings.

“After coming away last night feeling pretty low, it feels good to come out here and not only be in the game but win the game as well,” said RCB assistant coach Hunter Sowders.

The Indians (12-2) erased an early deficit by scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning. However, they would manage just three hits in the final six innings. Starter Nathaniel Junkins pitched four scoreless frames for the Flying Eagles, striking out five batters.

“I think it was the seniors we have on this team, (Xavier) Lopez and (Grant) Lowther just putting their arm around him and telling him to calm down.”

In the top of the sixth, RCB plated three runs after their first five batters in the inning reached base. Nicholas George’s two-run double capped the scoring and gave the Flying Eagles a 7-4 lead. Lowther then entered from the bullpen and got the final six outs, four of them by strikeout.

“(Grant) wanted Bridgeport and he told us that today. We knew he was going to be first in the pen. That curve ball that he throws it really nice. For him to be able to throw it for strikes is really big.”

RCB is now 9-0 against Big 10 Conference opposition.

“We knew that we could play with a lot of people in our area. We wanted this win. We knew where it would set us up for the Big 10. To win the Big 10, you have to go through Bridgeport every year.”

Lowther (2 IP, 1H, 0 R) picked up the win in relief while Ryan Goff (3 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 K) took the loss. Nate Paulsen, J.D. Love and Drew Hogue had multi-hit games for the Indians. George doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Flying Eagles.

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May Madness in the Mountain State

The most unusual and perhaps most memorable high school basketball season in West Virginia is now complete. 

It will always be remembered for its delayed start caused by COVID-19 and expanded post-season format which crowned not three but four champions in both girls and boys tournaments. 

The Metronews Radio Network broadcast all 56 games and televised the eight championship games. 

Emmy Award winning producer Dan Lohmann of Pikewood Creative gathered video, still photos and broadcast audio to tell the story of West Virginia’s first-ever May Madness and the memories that will last a lifetime for all participants and fans. 

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DHHR to begin administering Pfizer vaccine to younger West Virginians

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has announced West Virginia children between the ages of 12 and 15 will begin receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

The announcement Wednesday follows decisions by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Food and Drug Administration to authorize the vaccine’s use among younger people.

“This is an important step in our fight against the pandemic,” state Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad said. “Younger populations are contracting the virus and spreading it and choosing to be vaccinated will help stop the spread. We encourage all eligible West Virginians to choose to be vaccinated as soon as they get the opportunity.”

The West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force will work with local bodies, state agencies and pharmacies in coordinating the administration of doses.

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Senators promise action on VA hospital failures that allowed veterans’ murders

Following the sentencing of former nursing aide Reta Mays, West Virginia’s U.S. senators say hard work must be done to assure confidence in the Clarksburg veterans hospital where multiple patients died after being administered lethal doses of insulin.

Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he is meeting Monday with Denis McDonough, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I want to make sure he understands the need to absolutely overhaul the management and the practices of the VA hospital,” Manchin said today.

Mays was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms in the deaths of eight veterans at the hospital in Clarksburg. Civil suits filed by families seek to hold the Department of Veterans Affairs responsible for even more deaths.

Mays admitted to killing veterans Robert KozulRobert Edge Sr.Archie EdgellGeorge Shaw, a patient identified only as W.A.H., Felix McDermott and Raymond Golden. She is also accused of administering insulin to “R.R.P.,” another patient who was not diabetic, with intent to kill him.

All had checked into the hospital to seek healthcare and all had expected to recover. None were being treated for diabetes, yet their blood sugar crashed under suspicious circumstances. Mays admitted causing their deaths by administering unnecessary and lethal doses of insulin while she worked the overnight shift.

MORE: Families describe loss as former VA hospital aide is sentenced to multiple life terms

Concurrently with the sentencing, the inspector general for the Veterans Administration released a scathing 100-page report concluding that, although Mays killed the veterans, the hospital and its leaders were responsible for the conditions allowing her actions.

“While responsibility for these criminal acts clearly lies with Ms. Mays, the OIG found inattention and missed opportunities at several junctures, which, if handled differently might have allowed earlier detection of Ms. Mays actions or possibly averted them altogether,” according to the report by the Office of Inspector General for Veterans Affairs.

Manchin said that’s a call to action.

“I had said before that I couldn’t get involved because of the investigation. Now with the report being done and the sentencing of Reta Mays we can go further, quicker and faster and make something happen and make the changes that need to be made,” Manchin said.

The inspector general’s report concluded that Mays’ earlier employment history meant she never should have been hired by the veterans hospital, which didn’t complete proper background checks. Allegations of excessive use of force were leveled against Mays while she worked as a corrections officer at the North Central Regional Jail.

And she also should not have had access to the insulin that caused fatal hypoglycemic episodes among the veterans. Medication rooms and carts were not properly secured on Ward 3 where Mays worked, the OIG report concluded, giving her unauthorized access.

“How in the world did they not know by doing a background check on Reta Mays that she should not be at that hospital, did not have the qualifications and had very poor recommendations for performance for other places she worked?” Manchin asked.

“How did they leave all the medicines on the carts unprotected?”

The inspector general’s report described some corrective actions by the facility — “to improve medication security, nursing policies and processes and general oversight.”

The report noted that cameras were installed to provide views of Ward 3A’s four hallways and entrance, and a motion-activated security camera was installed in the 3A medication room.

The Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center released a statement this week expressing condolences to the families as well as gratitude for the inspector general’s investigation. The statement noted VA has reached financial settlements with  a more than a half dozen families of veterans through the Federal Tort Claims Act.

During the OIG investigation, the statement contended, VA put in place safeguards to enhance patient safety, including medical chart audits, checks and balances within pharmacy quality assurance processes and quality management reviews.

“While this matter involving an isolated employee does not represent the quality health care tens of thousands of North Central West Virginia Veterans have come to expect from our facility, it has prompted a number of improvements that will strengthen our continuity of care and prevent similar issues from happening in the future,” according to the statement.

Manchin was not impressed.

Speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” the senator said “The whole statement you just read is pure BS. If they think they’ve corrected all that right now, I haven’t seen that correction.”

.@Sen_JoeManchin speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the Inspector General's Report. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 12, 2021

Michael Missal

Michael Missal, the inspector general for the VA, said he hopes the Clarksburg VA and similar hospitals for veterans around the country will take the report to heart. He said some of the recommendations — such as underscoring hiring practices or properly securing medicine — were extended to hospital administrators even before the report was released.

“Do we inform VA? Absolutely. Our role is to help VA improve. Our role is to help veterans get the highest quality healthcare,” Missal said during a Wednesday morning roundtable interview with reporters from around the country. “We are going to immediately let VA know you have failings here.”

He continued, “If we found something that we thought needed to be changed to improve the quality of healthcare, the answer is yes.”

Michael Missal, @VetAffairsOIG, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss former VA Hospital nurse assistant Reta Mays. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 12, 2021

Julie Kroviak

The inspector general emphasized that veterans hospitals need a culture that puts patients first. In this case, the inspector general concluded, that was deeply lacking with disastrous results.

“If that isn’t the culture promoted by leadership you will eventually get to shortcomings,” said Julie Kroviak, deputy assistant inspector general for healthcare inspections.

The VA announced last Christmas Eve that the hospital’s director, Glenn Snider Jr., would no longer serve in that role. Snider was reassigned and has been working at a regional office.

“Any type of personnel decision is really VA’s to make,” Missal said when reporters asked why Snider wasn’t fired.

The medical center’s top executive for nursing was also reassigned last Dec. 28.

Shelley Moore Capito

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., agreed that the inspector general’s report underscores major concerns.

“Reading this report is just devastating. The failures at the Clarksburg VAMC outlined within this report are absolutely unacceptable,” Capito stated.

“The findings show a collapse of administrative and clinical responsibility that has led to unimaginable consequences, which makes it clear that updated policy and procedure is desperately needed.”

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Justice considering eliminating $300 extra unemployment benefit early

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday he’s considering eliminating the $300 weekly additional unemployment benefit that thousands of state residents receive before its September expiration date.

Governor Jim Justice

Justice said he’s heard from employers that can’t fill jobs. He said some people still need the benefits but there are some that don’t.

“We got plenty of folks that are hurting and not speaking of those folks in any way but you’ve got a lot, a lot, a lot of other folks that are scamming the whole system,” Justice said. “Our businesses are pleading with our people. We’ve got to have you back to work.”

Governors in more and more states have taken the step to eliminate the additional benefits. Iowa and Tennessee announced decisions to do so Tuesday. There are nine other states that made the move earlier.

Justice, who was short on specifics Wednesday. said his move would be two-pronged.

“Not only are we looking at moving forward to shorten that time period and go all of the way out to the end but we’re also looking at another tradeoff that could really help incentivize those folks to get back on the job. We need them back to work,” Justice said.

But West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Senior Policy Analyst Sean O’Leary said the trouble with employers filling jobs is more about transitioning out of a pandemic than it is people deciding not to work because they get $300 extra on top of their weekly unemployment benefits.

“It takes some time to adjust and of course there’s going to be some issues and the labor market is going to take maybe a month, two months to adjust to that and get back to normal. We’ve not had a global pandemic like this before,” O’Leary told MetroNews.

Sean O’Leary

O’Leary said it’s not that there are more jobs but the openings have come back very quickly and the workforce, for various reasons, has had trouble keeping pace.

O’Leary said the $300 extra benefit is helping ease the transition. He said eliminating it could slow the economic recovery.

“We still have in West Virginia and nationwide more unemployed workers than job openings and if you cut that off you’re cutting off that income because there’s not jobs for them. We hear that there are but the data is telling they’re not there. If you cut that off then their spending is going to go down,” O’Leary said.

He said the additional benefits have helped West Virginia’s economy.

Total unemployment in West Virginia just under 43,000 residents, a number that’s been falling in recent months, O’Leary said.

“Right now we’re seeing an economy on the verge of taking off,” he said.

Justice seemed to indicate Wednesday that his patience was about ready to run out.

“This nation was built on people’s work. I’m a real believer that work brings real gratification and honor and everything else. We’ve got to get our people back to work,” Justice said.

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