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Big 12 Snapshot: Kansas closes strong, hands Baylor first loss

— By Dave Weekley

TIER ONE (potential top four NCAA Tournament seeds)

BAYLOR 

I’m going to fight the inclination to put WVU atop our first tier this week after Baylor has been less than impressive in their first two games back following a three-week pause for COVID. It’s going to take some time for BU to get back up to speed after reportedly eight Bears had the virus at some point during their pause. There were quite a few things that happened in their 71-58 loss to Kansas that I don’t think will continue. For example, the nation’s best three-point shooting team went just 6-of-26 at KU. Baylor lost the battle of the boards 50-28. Jared Butler, the odds on favorite to be the Big 12 POY scored just five points. Kansas proved Baylor can be beaten, but the Bears are still 18-1. Let’s see what happens in Morgantown on Tuesday night.

WEST VIRGINIA

The Mountaineers are now in sole possession of second place in the Big 12 standings after an outstanding week and are solidly in Tier One of our Snapshot. In WVU’s 65-43 win over K-State on Saturday, roster depth was key. Deuce McBride was out of the starting lineup with a toe issue and scored just five points in 23 minutes. Derek Culver scored 11 points in just 18 minutes.  Jordan McCabe ran the point most of the afternoon and Sean McNeil led WVU with 16 points. K-State won the battle of the boards 36-35, including a 14-9 edge in offensive rebounding. West Virginia managed to win easily against K-State in a game in which the Wildcats shot just 29% and were 3-of-19 from three. Don’t expect Baylor to put up those kind of numbers.

KANSAS

Don’t look now, but here comes Kansas. The Jayhawks have now won six of their last seven games and re-appear in Tier One of our Snapshot this week after knocking Baylor from the ranks of the unbeaten on Senior Night at the Phog in easily their biggest win of the season. Conference play is over for KU and theyfinished with a flourish. David McCormack had a game high 20 points, Jalen Wilson grabbed 13 rebounds and Marcus Garrett, who was named as a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist last week, keyed a KU defense that held Baylor to just 35% from the field. Kansas wraps up the regular season by hosting UTEP on Thursday. 

OKLAHOMA STATE

Even in a season turned upside down by COVID, Bedlam is still Bedlam. With all of the hype surrounding Cade Cunningham coming into the season, he’s had moments when he couldn’t buy a basket, seemed unaware of clock situations and made a lot of the mistakes all freshman make. But Saturday in Norman against Oklahoma, that wasn’t the case. In that 94-90 overtime win over the Sooners, Cunningham put his teammates on his back and virtually carried them to victory, scoring 40 points and grabbing eleven rebounds — both career highs. OSU has very little time to enjoy the win over their arch rivals, because a rematch with Oklahoma is set for Monday night in Stillwater.

OKLAHOMA

For the Sooners, there’s no shame in losing to Oklahoma State, but when that loss comes after dropping a head scratcher to K-State, this question has to be asked; is this a trend or just an aberration?OU is now 14-7, 9-6 in the Big 12 after their overtime loss at home to OSU. Austin Reaves more than did his part to keep the Sooners in the game, with 22 points, six rebounds and eights assists. De’Vion Harmon led OU with 23 points and was 9-of-13 from the fieldBedlam Part II comes Monday night in StillwaterOU will need to do a much better job blocking out in the rematch, after losing the battle of the boards 45-28 on Saturday night.

TIER TWO (post-season tournament (NCAA and NIT) contenders)

TEXAS

The poise that Texas showed in their come-from-behind win over Kansas early last week was in short supply against Texas Tech in Lubbock on Saturday. The Longhorns tried to push the issue, cutting a 13-point TTU lead to three with just over three minutes left, but UT shot just 20% from the field (5-of-25) after halftime and that was the difference. It was just one of those nights for Courtney Ramey, who went 1-for-10 from the field, scoring six points in 37 minutes. Unlike Kansas, which is finished with conference play, Texas has three games this week — all on the road, at Iowa State on Tuesday, at Oklahoma on Thursday and finally at TCU next Saturday night.

TEXAS TECH

If you want to look for things that have turned around the Red Raiders’ fortunes with Chris Beard at the helm, look no further than their series with Texas. After beating the Longhorns 68-59 in Lubbock, TTU is now 7-1 vs. UT under Beard. Texas Tech snapped its three-game skid in the win over Texas, Mac McClung led the way with 16 points. Among the positives for TTU; Texas Tech won the rebounding battle 36-31 and that’s no easy task against the Longhorns, who lead the Big 12 in rebounding margin. The Red Raiders also found their way back to the free throw line. In their overtime loss to Oklahoma State early last week, the Cowboys had the edge in free throw attempts 32-12. Against Texas, TTU went 20-of-26 from the stripe — Texas Tech came into the contest second in the nation with 15. 5 made free throws per game. The Red Raiders have a busy week ahead with three makeup games; hosting TCU on Tuesday, Iowa State on Thursday and visiting Baylor next Saturday.

TIER THREE (cellar dwellers)

TCU

The bottom of the Big 12 continues to be feisty. TCU bounced back from its home loss to WVU last week to complete a season sweep against Iowa State, dropping the Cyclones in Ames, 76-72. The Frogs have struggled at the free throw line at times this year, but went 18-of-18 (!) at ISU — that’s the kind of thing that wins conference games on the road. TCU also managed to outrebound ISU, 33-28. Mike Miles and RJ Nembhard scored 19 points each to lead the way. The Frogs visit TTU on Tuesday before visiting WVU on Thursday. TCU wraps up the regular season by hosting Texas next Saturday. 

KANSAS STATE

K-State’s two-game winning streak came to an end at WVU on Saturday, as the Wildcats managed to score just 43 points in a 22-point loss in Morgantown. West Virginia’s top two players – Deuce McBride and Derek Culver had sub-par games, but KSU was unable to take advantageWithout Nijel Pack, who missed the game with an eye infection, K-State struggled, committing 18 turnoversAt 7-19 overall and just 3-14 in the Big 12, K-State is off until next Saturday, when they will have a chance to sweep their season series with visiting Iowa State.

IOWA STATE 

It was a curious week for the Cyclones, who nearly upset previously unbeaten Baylor, but then lost to TCU on Senior Night in Ames, 76-72. It’s not as if ISU didn’t make it a game; after trailing by 14 points, they rallied to take the lead 56-53 behind some long-range shooting by Jalen Coleman-Lands, but TCU quickly went back out in front and made their free throws down the stretch. The Cyclones are now 2-18 overall, 0-15 in conference play and have a tough week ahead; hosting Texas on Tuesday before finishing the conference season with trips to Texas Tech (Thursday) and K-State (Saturday). One other ISU note; Fifth-year senior Solomon Young announced last Friday he won’t pursue a sixth-season and will instead turn pro.

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Construction at North Central West Virginia Airport slated to begin later this year

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Work on an expansion and upgrade to North Central West Virginia Airport could begin as early as the second quarter of this year.

The project includes building a new terminal near state Route 279, creating an additional 50 acres of airport space with taxiway access to the airport’s runway, and developing land for additional commercial and industrial use.

Gov. Jim Justice kickstarted the project in August 2019 by providing a $10 million grant from the Infrastructure Jobs Development Council and a similar loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority.

Airport director Rick Rock told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM the airport must wait 30 days for public comment on the Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental assessment.

“I expect there to be no problems. I expect it should go through,” he said. “We welcome comments, but I anticipate no significant findings.”

Rock noted the environmental approval is needed to start work on an upgraded passenger terminal and aerotech business park.

“The design is complete,” he said. “We’ve bid the project out, and the contractor is waiting on the notice to proceed.”

The airport accounts for $1 billion in economic impact. Rock said he believes the effects will multiply as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries grows its regional jet service.

“We want to put people to work, we think it’s a great project, and in the end, it will have great benefits for the state of West Virginia,” she said. “We’ve been fortunate going through this process.”

Additional nearby work includes the Harrison Business Park, which the Harrison County Economic Development Corporation is leading.

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With experienced backcourt, GW boys optimistic entering season

Following a near one-year layoff from games, high school basketball teams across West Virginia will be looking to shake off the rust when regular season play returns this week.

Just how many kinks teams have to work through will likely go a long way toward deciding success rates in the early going.

For George Washington’s boys basketball program, however, it is expected there will be fewer issues than what most teams face with the return of a standout senior backcourt in Mason Pinkett and Alex Yoakum.

Pinkett was a Class AAA first-team all-state selection a season ago after averaging 17.3 points, while Yoakum earned honorable mention honors with a 10.6 scoring average.

“We’ll be led by our two senior guards  — Alex Yoakum and Mason Pinkett, who I think personally he’s a candidate for player of the year,” GW coach Rick Greene said. “If you have senior guards and you have less prep time, hopefully that can close a lot of the gap on weaknessess that come from not having prep time.”

With a strong core returning from a team that finished 19-5 and was the No. 3 seed at the state tournament prior to the stoppage of last season, there’s plenty of reason for Greene to be optimistic.

“I’m really happy with this team. I really like this team,” Greene said. “These kids have been with me for a long time and played a lot, so we have high expectations to be competitive.”

Although talented forward William Gabbert is now at Greenbrier East, Greene has high hopes for 6-foot-6 sophomore Ben Nicol, who made a strong impression as a freshman.

“We’ll have a sophomore who’s really good in Ben Nicol. He started last year,” Greene said.

With a 62-13 record and state tournament berths each of the last three seasons, including a state championship in 2018, Greene’s group has become accustomed to winning.

The Patriots hope to prolong their winning ways starting with Friday’s season opener against Winfield. Soon after, they’ll begin a daunting Mountain State Athletic Conference schedule, with the likes of Cabell Midland, Huntington, South Charleston, Capital and St. Albans also carrying high expectations.

“I’ve always felt like if you’re competitive in this conference and you can be runner-up or win the conference, then you can beat anybody in the state,” Greene said. “I think that holds true. I think the conference is a great measuring stick for everybody to see what’s going to happen potentially in the state tournament. 

“Except, we eliminate over half ourselves because they won’t seed us. I had to get it in.”

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Lawmakers hear about options for young people turning 18 in foster care

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — What now? That is the question many young people in foster care in West Virginia must answer when they reach a critical age.

“Think about you being 18 years old and walking in Downtown Charleston trying to figure out what you’re going to do with the next step of your life,” said Tiffani Dale with Burlington United Methodist Family Services.

The health and welfare ministry is just one of the agencies that operates community-based services, residential facilities and a transitional living home for young people in the Mountain State.

At age 18, young people in foster care have a critical decision to make.

“We do have options in our state,” said Marilyn Pearce, regional director for the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a private, nonprofit child welfare organization.

“We have options for children whether or not they want to remain in the state’s custody after the age of 18 or if they would like to sign out and go their own ways.”

Dale and Gina Pensule, also with Burlington, along with Pearce spoke recently to members of the state Senate Workforce Committee.

Also participating was Cammie Chapman, general counsel for the Bureau for Children and Families in the state Department of Health and Human Resources, who discussed “Opportunities for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care.”

Her list included Job Corps, with locations in Charleston and Harpers Ferry, Foster Youth Initiative grants which started in February 2020, tuition waivers for foster care youth, job support options and more.

“The children that are turning 18 in foster care are our most vulnerable young adults and there are many opportunities, but many areas where we can increase our services to these kids,” said Chapman.

Pearce, with the Children’s Home Society, said improvements were needed to build on cooperation and coordination for the different programs among the varying agencies.

“Although there are options, we need to expand on them. We need to do better as a whole and start working more as a community and really utilizing community partnerships,” Pearce said.

Recruitment for the next steps, she argued, needed to start in middle school and continue through high school and into college and the workforce, like the support systems established for many athletes.

Currently with those in foster care or aging out of foster care, “We’re not wrapping them and creating natural supports for them,” said Pearce.

Dale suggested lawmakers invest more in transitional living, technical skill training, workforce development, building reuse and other housing options for young people coming out of foster care.

A special focus, Dale said, was needed for funding in the most rural counties.

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Justice proposes pouring federal relief in ‘bucket’ while touting income tax cut. Can he do that?

Gov. Jim Justice has repeated an idea of setting aside financial “surplus,” built on the strength of federal relief dollars, into a “bucket” while touting his income tax cut proposal that could leave a big hole in the state budget.

Analysts say it’s doubtful West Virginia could use the federal relief money that way — and it doesn’t seem to be in line with federal intent.

Kelly Allen

“The state fiscal aid under the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan is intended to cover costs incurred specifically related to the economic and public health crisis,” said Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, a think tank.

“It would be unthinkable — and likely not allowable — to use relief funds intended for families and communities to pay for tax cuts. It is untenable and fiscally irresponsible to use one-time funds to pay for permanent tax cuts.”

For the covid-19 relief package under consideration by Congress right now, there’s language being tossed around that would prevent states that have tweaked their revenue mechanisms this past year from qualifying from any additional covid funds.

Where West Virginia is concerned, an elimination of the income tax could prevent the state from qualifying for any money moving forward.

The House of Representatives has passed the $1.9 billion covid relief bill. The U.S. Senate is expected to take it up in the coming weeks.

West Virginia received $1.25 billion in state pandemic relief last spring. Through the middle of this month, the state still had about half, $660,874,770, according to the state Auditor’s transparency site. Justice’s administration has allocated most of that to anticipated unemployment benefits.

The coming budget package, the American Rescue Plan, is anticipated to include $350 billion in direct aid to state and city governments.

West Virginia is lined up to receive another $1.259 billion.

Justice, speaking to state and national reporters, has made it clear he wants the Biden administration and Congress to go big.

“Trying to be, per se, fiscally responsible at this point in time with what we’ve got going on in this country, if we actually throw away some money right now, so what?” the governor told CNN.

But in recent public remarks, the governor has also talked about setting aside what results from West Virginia’s federal relief.

His remarks have come in the context of his proposal to cut the state’s annual $2.5 billion personal income tax at least by half. Justice says population growth spurred by people drawn by the initial income tax cut will allow the state to then cut the rest.

The income tax represents about 43 percent of the state’s General Fund and pays for services such as education and healthcare.

If any unforeseen financial problems should arise, the governor has said, he would like to count on a reserve. And federal relief might be just the way to fill it.

Justice first described that earlier this month during his State of the State address.

Gov. Jim Justice

“What do you think’s going to happen with the Biden stimulus package? What could happen? They could forgive all of the dollars that we’ve put out towards unemployment,” Justice said in his address.

“What if? What if we had hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of millions more dollars? Put ’em in the bucket. Don’t spend ’em. For God’s sakes a livin’ don’t throw ’em away because you’ll spin around five times, wake up and say ‘Where are we?’ You won’t even know what happened. Put ’em in the bucket.”

Then, during a town hall about the income tax proposal, Justice answered a question about what he meant. He was also asked his view of whether his proposal is in line with the Biden administration’s intent.

“In the state of West Virginia today, we have a cash surplus. In 2019, we had an incredible surplus. In 2020, we ran across the finish line with a surplus in a covid year like nobody’s business. In 2021, we have a significant surplus at this point in time. And right behind this, there’s additional stimulus packages coming. And we have not delved into the deep dive where we could actually pull money from the existing stimulus that we already have that could raise the surplus and raise the cash even higher.

“Now, we could do one of two things. We could just spend the money. Or we could just throw the money away. Or we have the opportunity to put that aside and in some way establish something – maybe it’s a vehicle I’m not thinking about – but maybe it’s a second Rainy Day Fund. And use it to backfill any shortfalls. Or choose it however we choose to use it. But from the standpoint of our bondholders and so on like that, I really truly believe that’s something they would welcome and welcome immediately. I think that would be a great way to not just have us throw away a bunch of money.”

Much of the current fiscal year surplus the governor described was produced after providing a grace period for income tax filings last year. Millions of dollars came in after the new fiscal year began July 1, providing a financial cushion to start the current fiscal year.

Justice is describing building on that budget surplus. He’s envisioning the possibility of the federal government forgiving the money West Virginia has allocated toward unemployment, as well as reimbursement for pandemic-related costs.

With all that, and on the strength of millions of dollars in upcoming federal relief, West Virginia could have enough in the near term for the basics of operating government.

Any gravy could be set aside in what Justice calls a bucket.

Except all that coincides with his proposal to phase out the income tax, which accounts for almost half of the state’s General Fund. Justice has proposed several measures, including a sales tax hike and a new luxury tax as well as some cuts, to offset the income tax. But he acknowledges that might not be enough.

So the bucket might need to be on hand to fill a financial gully of his own creation.

One of the criticisms of federal aid to states is often described as a “blue-state bailout,” which refers to largely Democratic states like Illinois, New York and California that might benefit from the money to ease their strained pension programs.

Justice shares that criticism.

“I am not a proponent of bailing out failed pension funds that have decades and decades of poor history,” Justice, a Republican, told USA TODAY. “But we should do things to address states’ and local governments’ needs that have happened because of this unbelievable pandemic. There are many needs within states.”

Justice told the national newspaper earlier this month that the federal government should not “cure past sins” of poor state financing but should help states “weather the storm.”

“It is a burden that a lot of states just cannot possibly carry,” Justice said, adding that states can’t cut their way out of the problem. “You’ve got to grow your way out of the problem.”

But a move to cut the state personal income tax against the backdrop of the millions of dollars in state and federal aid could be problematic too.

Some U.S. senators are concerned that some states could cut local taxes rather than spend coming federal relief on needs related to the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post reported this week.

“We could distribute billions to the states, and they turn around and lower taxes — there are governors talking about that, and it’s not the point here … there should be a prohibition against voluntarily diminishing revenues,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, told The Post. 

The House bill says states are to use the money to:

(A) respond to or mitigate the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) or its negative economic impacts; ‘‘(B) cover costs incurred as a result of 6 such emergency; ‘‘(C) replace revenue that was lost, delayed, or decreased (as determined based on revenue projections for the State, Tribal Government, or territory as of January 27, 2020) as a result of such emergency; or (D) address the negative economic impacts of such emergency.

Neal Osten

Justice’s recent statements may contribute to questions about whether the states even need another round of federal relief, said Neal Osten, senior adviser for MultiState Associates, a government relations firm. Osten often consults on state tax policy programs.

“With the Governor’s comments about West Virginia ending fiscal year 2020 with a surplus and having a surplus right now for fiscal year 2021, I am not sure how he would leverage  funds from the federal stimulus package to cover revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic,” Osten told MetroNews.

West Virginia would be entitled to reimbursement for any funds spent to mitigate the pandemic not already paid for by the funds in the 2020 CARES Act, including reimbursing West Virginia for the extra $100 a week that the state agreed to pay unemployed workers under President Trump’s executive order last year, he said, but that was only for a short period of time.

That doesn’t even get to whether West Virginia could set aside even more federal money as a safety net for the income tax cut. That approach with the Coronavirus Relief Fund is a puzzler, Osten said.

“I’m not sure how the Treasury will regard CRF funds going into a “rainy day” fund to pay for a future tax cut which would be contrary to the purpose of the CRF,” he said.

Justice, speaking at his most recent town hall event, suggested using the federal relief to establish a “bucket” will be just fine.

“And from the standpoint of the Biden administration and us using those monies for certain things – I think, at the end of the day, as we receive the stimulus dollars and everything – as we opt to deep dive and recapture revenue and that revenue comes on our balance sheet as a surplus and we get a supplemental from the Legislature to put it in that bucket,” he told the citizens of West Virginia, “I think that’s absolutely doable.”

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Notebook: Second consecutive Saturday sweep for the WVU hoop teams

— Story by Greg Carey and Joe Brocato

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For the second Saturday in a row, both WVU basketball teams posted victories. The men’s team knocked off Kansas State 65-43 at the Coliseum to cap a 2-0 week. And the women’s team bounced back from Wednesday’s loss at Iowa State to defeat Kansas.

McCabe steps into the starting lineup

Junior point guard Jordan McCabe made his fifth start of the season Saturday in West Virginia’s 65-43 victory over Kansas State.

McCabe, who scored seven points and added two assists without a turnover, kept his same frame of mind starting in place of Miles “Deuce” McBride, who had his minutes limited in a reserve role.

“My mentality didn’t change a whole lot. Roles are roles,” McCabe said. “Coming off the bench, my role is to calm us down wherever we’re at whether we’re up ten, down ten or even. In the beginning (of Saturday’s game) that was my same goal.”

But off the court, McCabe fills another role for the Mountaineers, helping keep his team updated on where they stand in the landscape of the NCAA Tournament.

Through Saturday’s games, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has West Virginia (17-6, 10-4) as the last No. 2 seed and the No. 8 team overall in the field. Villanova, Alabama and Illinois are Lunardi’s other No. 2 seeds, with Gonzaga, Michigan, Baylor and Ohio State the four No. 1 seeds.

Jerry Palm, the CBS Sports bracketologist, also has the Mountaineers as a No. 2 seed.

With three regular season games remaining, including Tuesday against Big 12 Conference leader Baylor, plenty could change over the next week.

“I don’t know if I’m the team bracketologist. That’s interesting,” McCabe said. “I’m not smart, but I listen to smart people and try to regurgigate what they say. I happen to be around Huggs, who says he’s the smartest man in the room. I listen to what he’s saying about Lunardi or the committee. He always says committee, but I don’t know who these people are.

“But if we sweep our last (three) regular season games at home, which is a big-time test going into tournament time, I would say we should be on that 1 line. That means we beat Baylor and a very good TCU and Oklahoma State team. Hypothetically, you’d assume we’d be in that conversation. That’s our goal and we’re not going to shy away from it.”

Miles McBride (4) saves a ball from going out of bounds (Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports)

Home Sweet Home?

Saturday’s win over the Wildcats marked the first of four consecutive home games to end the regular season for West Virginia.

Assuming all four contests are played, the Mountaineers would finish the regular season having played 17 of 18 Big 12 games — nine at home and eight on the road.

Staying home also prevents the Mountaineers from having to travel for the final two weeks of the regular season, though coach Bob Huggins isn’t sure what, if any, advantage it will provide his team.

“I don’t know. Can I tell you that when it’s done? We’ve never done that before,” Huggins said. “I don’t know anymore about it than you do. This one’s over with and we’re going to come in (Sunday), look at film, dummy through some stuff and go harder on Monday and play on Tuesday.

Junior guard Sean McNeil, however, looks forward to not having a lengthy trip until the conference tournament, which starts March 10 in Kansas City.

“It’s huge, in this league especially,” McNeil said. “Mostly every time we travel we have anywhere from a two to three-hour flight there and back. It’s huge to have a four-game stretch at home to finish out the season.”

WVU women holding on to second place in Big 12

With a 72-68 win at Kansas on Saturday, the WVU women’s basketball team remains in control of their own destiny for a second-place finish in the Big 12. Baylor has three games remaining this week and they can secure the outright regular season conference championship with just one more victory. The Mountaineers will visit Kansas State on Wednesday and travel to Baylor on March 8.

In Saturday’s four-point win over the Jayhawks, the Mountaineers went cold shooting the ball in the second half while settling for shots around the perimeter. WVU went just 2-for-15 from beyond the 3-point line.

WVU’s Esmery Martinez (Photo by Brent Beerends/KU Athletics)

“The posts have to want the ball too. They have to sit down and demand the ball and not defer to the guards. I even tried to run some stuff for the posts but they acted like they didn’t want the ball,” said WVU head coach Mike Carey.

Esmery Martinez scored 14 points and pulled down a career-high 24 rebounds. Blessing Ejiofor tied a season-best with eight points. She also had four rebounds in 22 minutes and provided a major boost from WVU’s thin bench that consists of just two players.

“That was big, the eight points from her. We needed that because Kari (Niblack) was in foul trouble. Blessing came in and did a good job.”

The Mountaineers stand 24th in Sunday’s NCAA NET rankings. Half of the Big 12 teams are ranked inside the top 32.

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Attorney representing Westover man discusses civil lawsuit

WESTOVER, W.Va. — The attorney representing a man allegedly assaulted by Westover police officers is speaking about his client’s case.

William Cox, of Westover, was allegedly beaten by officers Aaron Dalton and Justice Carver in August 2019. A civil rights lawsuit alleges Cox was attacked at a Mountainline bus stop while recording the officers on his phone.

Dalton already faces one lawsuit related to accusations of his behavior; he and Officer Zachary Fecsko are accused of beating Andrew Howton on Jan. 1, 2019.

Travis Prince, Cox’s attorney, said his client told the officers he had a right to record them. The officers responded by deploying pepper spray before beating and kicking Cox. Police documents state Cox attacked the officers.

“The beating was so severe a bone in his face was fractured,” he told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM. “Ultimately, he was taken to the sheriff’s office where he was chained to the floor before he was eventually housed at the North Central Regional Jail for nearly 40 days.”

Prince requested access to body camera footage but has yet to receive the tape. He has footage captured from a nearby surveillance camera, yet it is unclear if police officers have the same footage. Video shows Cox standing next to the officers’ patrol vehicle when they got out and started beating Cox.

“It’s our position that the surveillance footage is inconsistent with the report of the police officers and is inconsistent with the allegations in this case,” he said. “We do not yet know the extent to which that surveillance footage was even shared with anyone.”

Prince said he is unaware of what happened to the cell phone video.

“We’ve obviously requested it be returned to William, and he has not received it,” Prince said. “We don’t know the status of the cell phone right now, but we will find out through discovery.”

Prince said he is also trying to understand why his client was chained to the floor as well as why it took more than a month for Cox to be released from jail.

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Rain continues in Mountain State as Flood Warning in effect for I-64 corridor areas

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several counties along the Interstate-64 corridor from Huntington to Charleston remain under a Flood Warning Sunday as multiple systems of rain continue to hit the area.

Robert Hart, lead Meteorologist at the National Weather Service Charleston told MetroNews on Sunday morning that there have already been reports of flooding but another system late Sunday could bring a ‘widespread flood event’ for the central and northern half of the state.

“We have a lot of high water reports, roads flooded all the way from Cabell County to Kanawha County,” Hart said. “A lot of the secondary roads we have received reports of being flooded. Even some high water rescues along some creeks and streams near the Teays Valley and Ona area.”

The rain began Saturday during the day for most parts of the I-64 corridor with a break until overnight Saturday into Sunday. Hart expects mid-afternoon Sunday to be the final system of heavy showers.

A Flood Warning is in effect until Monday morning for parts of Wayne, Cabell, Putnam, Lincoln, Kanawha, Mason, Jackson, Roane, Calhoun, and Clay.

According to Hart, many areas have already received 1 to 3 inches of rain by Sunday morning. He said by Monday morning, spots along the I-64 corridor and a little further north could total 2 to 4 inches of rain and up to 5 inches in isolated locations.

A Flood Watch remains in effect through tonight. Monitor the weather at https://t.co/gAQxhMWUWX, and be alert for possible Flood Warnings.

Follow rainfall amounts athttps://t.co/4IkMyaRUxY,
and river stages athttps://t.co/RTJd07AegJ.#wvwx #kywx #vawx #ohwx #rain #flooding pic.twitter.com/GTyQAUlA3Z

— NWS Charleston, WV (@NWSCharlestonWV) February 28, 2021

The hardest parts in the state by the weekend rain were mainly the locations impacted by the ice storms of last week, Hart said. He anticipated additional trees down because of the already weakened ground.

“The ground is still relatively cold so it can’t hold as much water. All the snow has been melting over the last few weeks so that adds more water into the ground,” he said.

“Then you throw in a couple of inches of rain onto the already saturated soil and you can get flooding that occurs pretty fast.”

Hart forecasted a calm work week ahead for much of the state. 30s and 40s in higher elevations with temperatures in the 50s in lower elevations.

“Much of the upcoming week, into next weekend is looking nice for early March standards. We will have a mix of sun and clouds much of the time and a lot more sunshine than what we have seen the past several weeks,” he said.

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Lewis County company to lead first phase of Morgantown airport work

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A Lewis County construction and development company will lead the start of the runway extension project at the Morgantown Municipal Airport.

Doss Enterprises has been awarded the first phase of the project, which has been valued at $5.7 million. The total project includes a 1,000-foot extension of the runway and building the Interstate 68 Commerce Park, which will cost an estimated $50 million.

“As we are bringing that borrow site down and flattening it that will be creating the future I-68 Commerce Park,” airport director Jonathon Vrabel said.

Vrabel noted the Federal Aviation Administration awarded the airport with a $7 million grant, in which a $750,000 match is covered by federal coronavirus relief funds.

Business at the airport is down 60% because of the coronavirus pandemic, with Vrabel noting the biggest impact has been on corporate aviation.

“We’re starting to see an uptick at the end of this month now, and we’re hoping that continues going forward,” he said. “Hopefully, the economy will start rebounding. Seeing corporate aviation grow is an indicator the economy is improving.”

The airport also offers flights to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport.

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Active COVID-19 cases continue downward trend in Sunday report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia continued to drop in Sunday’s report by the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

The DHHR report stated there are 7,258 active cases, down from 7,486 in Saturday’s report and the lowest total since November 8, 2020. Daily reduction in active cases has how stretched for six consecutive weeks.

There are currently 239 people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, including 65 patients in ICU.

No counties were red Saturday on the COVID-19 daily alert map and six were orange, the two highest levels indicating community spread of the virus.

275 new cases of the virus were reported Sunday with a daily positivity test rate of 2.50%.

The DHHR confirmed the deaths of a 76-year old male from Preston County, an 83-year old female from Clay County and a 31-year old female from Kanawha County.

Total COVID-19 deaths are now at 2,300.

The number of residents fully vaccinated now sits at 197,431 as of Sunday.

Cases per county: Barbour (1,221), Berkeley (9,683), Boone (1,579), Braxton (774), Brooke (2,011), Cabell (7,800), Calhoun (230), Clay (376), Doddridge (467), Fayette (2,661), Gilmer (712), Grant (1,068), Greenbrier (2,429), Hampshire (1,530), Hancock (2,595), Hardy (1,267), Harrison (4,835), Jackson (1,668), Jefferson (3,624), Kanawha (12,094), Lewis (1,036), Lincoln (1,224), Logan (2,699), Marion (3,669), Marshall (3,008), Mason (1,767), McDowell (1,350), Mercer (4,220), Mineral (2,583), Mingo (2,122), Monongalia (8,025), Monroe (946), Morgan (935), Nicholas (1,179), Ohio (3,636), Pendleton (619), Pleasants (800), Pocahontas (595), Preston (2,536), Putnam (4,213), Raleigh (4,696), Randolph (2,390), Ritchie (622), Roane (603), Summers (702), Taylor (1,087), Tucker (499), Tyler (617), Upshur (1,683), Wayne (2,616), Webster (321), Wetzel (1,086), Wirt (359), Wood (7,047), Wyoming (1,741).

DHHR reports as of February 28, 2021, there have been 2,177,707 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 131,855 total cases and 2,300 total deaths. https://t.co/FwrzbSCkBx pic.twitter.com/ZBwXIVUzIf

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) February 28, 2021

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