When Huntington took the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum hardwood three years ago, Patrick Patterson and Mike Taylor were the only two freshman on the squad as starters.

It was that year that Huntington’s reign on top of Class AAA should have started.

The Highlanders upset Morgantown in the quarterfinals before meeting Woodrow Wilson in the semis. And it looked as though Huntington would advance to the championship game against Hedgesville after holding a double-digit lead.

However, Lloyd McGuffin’s squad could not hold on to that advantage and was eliminated by the Flying Eagles.

“Yeah, freshman year, I think we blew like a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter. Is that what it was?” Patterson asked looking to his head coach. “Freshman year, semifinals against Beckley. That’s the year I really thought we should have won it.

“I thought we still had the best team in the state with Parks Ward, Adam Yaeger, Tanner Wild and me and Mike as freshmen. I mean really, this should be our fourth state title, but I’m happy I still got three.”

Woodrow Wilson went on to win the state championship in 2004.

Then Huntington went off by winning the next three to become the first Class AAA team to three-peat.

“I mean, yeah, we just made history. I don’t think any team will ever do this in the state of West Virginia. We’re the first team, and we went out there and proved why we are the best team,” said Patterson, who scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked seven shots in his final game.

“I’m proud of everybody on the team and happy I played with everybody. And I’m going to end up crying eventually, I know that, because I’m never going to play with them again. I’m just happy for everybody.”

Hometown Highlanders

O.J. Mayo came back to his hometown to help guide Huntington to the third title, which was a 103-61 rout of South Charleston last Saturday.

The top 2007 high school prospect scored a triple-double in the championship game with 41 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

And it was also Mayo’s third state title after winning a pair in Ohio before joining Huntington this season.

If Mayo would have been in Huntington all four years, who knows? The Highlanders would probably be four-time state champs.

“Most definitely. I think it would have been fun to win four straight,” said Mayo. “But like I said, the earlier years were fun, but not as fun as doing it with your home boys who you grew up with, running around in diapers and going to daycare together.”

Mayo made stops in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia during his high school career. He was a two-time Mr. Basketball in Ohio, won the West Virginia Player of the Year this season as well as being named the USA Today National Player of the Year last Friday.

Through the years, though, no season was as enjoyable as his senior campaign in his hometown.

“All the years that I’ve played high school basketball, from 7 all the way to now, this has been the funnest year to do it with my home boys and just representing the state of West Virginia well,” Mayo said. “We’re mountain boys. So for us to show the way we did, it was just a great honor to play.”

College Bound

While Mayo and Chris Early already know their college destination — Southern California and Oklahoma, respectively — the same cannot be said for Patterson, Taylor, Jamal Williams and Bruce Senior.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made the trip to Charleston to watch Patterson play during the semifinals against Bridgeport last Friday night.

West Virginia head coach John Beilein was in attendance both Friday and Saturday to see Patterson.

Both Kentucky and Florida are both in the mix as well.

“Within this week, I’ll narrow it down to three schools,” Patterson said after the title game. “Then the second week of April I’ll decide.”

Williams, Taylor and Senior still have decisions to make.

“We have to visit some colleges and narrow it down to a few schools, like Pat said,” Williams noted. “You just keep narrowing it down until you pick that one school.”

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

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