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Photo gallery: North Marion bests East Fairmont in extra innings

PLEASANT VALLEY, W.Va. — Photo gallery from North Marion’s 11-2, 8-inning win over East Fairmont in Tuesday’s season opener for both teams.

(Photo gallery by Teran Malone)

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Greater Beckley Christian hands James Monroe first loss, 58-55

PROSPERITY, W.Va. — Trailing 35-19 at halftime, James Monroe did not give up on their perfect season without a furious second half comeback. After seeing their lead trimmed to a basket on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter, Greater Beckley Christian held on to defeat the Mavericks 58-55 Tuesday evening.

James Monroe (15-1) was one of two boys basketball teams in the state sporting an undefeated record. Pendleton County (10-0/33-game win streak) is now the only squad with a zero in the loss column.

The Crusaders (6-6) led 10-9 after the first quarter and used a 13-2 second quarter run to build a 16-point halftime cushion. Junior guard Kaden Smallwood scored all of his game-high 20 points in the first half.

“Kaden Smallwood had a tremendous game today, in the first half especially,” said Greater Beckley Christian head coach Justin Arvon. “We had him guarding their best player and Eli (Allen) and scoring on the offensive end. That’s the kind of player he needs to be for us. And he is capable of it.”

The Mavericks immediately responded in the third quarter by scoring fourteen unanswered points to trim their deficit to four. JMHS trailed 44-37 going to the fourth.

With 2:30 to play, a three-point play from Shad Sauvage brought the Mavericks within three points at 52-49. However, the Crusaders tightened up defensively and did not allow a field goal the rest of the way.

“We stopped allowing them to get into the lane for a little while. Their foul trouble got to them just like it got to us at the end. It was a good game with two very good teams. But that is one game and I hope it is not the last one we win this year because we have a big one Thursday (vs. Webster County).

“We haven’t won anything yet, but our goal is to. If we win (in the sectional semifinals), we will probably see them again. That’s going to be another good basketball game.”

B.J. Mitchell scored a dozen points for GBC. John Rose and Jordan McGinnis added 11 points each.

Sauvage led the Mavericks with 19 points while Eli Allen chipped in with 16.

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Skaff: Justice, Republicans should welcome conversations on possible income tax plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leading Democrat in the House of Delegates is hoping Gov. Jim Justice and Republican lawmakers reach out to their Democratic colleagues and various organizations to build a compromise on an income tax reduction plan.

House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, said Republicans failed to act together to pass a proposal during the 60-day regular legislative session, adding Justice and Republican leaders should welcome discussions about the best legislative approach.

House Minority Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha

“That wasn’t done on this personal income tax,” Skaff said on Tuesday’s “MetroNews Talkline.”

“It seemed like it was a top-down approach, and if you didn’t agree with the governor’s bill, it wasn’t going to pass.”

Justice pushed a proposal to reduce the personal income tax by 60% with changes to consumer taxes and a tiered tax system impacting natural resources. The Senate and House each pitched plans with more gradual reductions, although the Senate plan included some tax increases. The House unanimously rejected the Senate’s proposal last Friday following criticism from Justice about not moving forward with the bill.

Skaff said his opposition stemmed from a refusal to take money from existing programs or increase taxes.

“I think we need to go into this summer and study everything else. Let’s put a study team together,” he said. “A bipartisan workgroup, but bring all groups together.”

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said Monday lawmakers should continue having discussions about the best proposal.

The state Legislature approved a $4.6 billion budget which includes $73 million in cuts to allow for income tax reductions over the next year.

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Magnolia rides Winters, Estep to 53-38 win at Ritchie County

ELLENBORO, W.Va. — In a shortened basketball season filled with more uncertainty than any before it, a team’s record may not hold as much meaning as usual entering the postseason.

Magnolia coach Meredith Pilant tried to stress this to the Blue Eagles, who won only five of 18 regular season contests.

Evidently, the message was heard loud and clear. Magnolia used a strong defensive effort and dominant rebounding performance to work its way past Ritchie County 53-38 in a Class AA Region I, Section 1 semifinal.

“We’ve talked all week about the postseason is a new season,” Pilant said. “They’ve worked so hard and we’ve seen some real bright spots in the second half of the season. They’re playing a little bit better. We played a very tough schedule this year. We told them to just keep playing and it’ll pay off.”

The victory allows Magnolia (6-13) to play at top-seeded St. Marys in Friday’s sectional title game.

Defense was the story of the opening half for the Blue Eagles, who held the Rebels (11-5) to 1-of-16 shooting in the opening quarter to build an 8-3 lead.

Although Ritchie County generated more offense in the second quarter, it still had difficulty scoring and entered halftime facing a 17-15 deficit after shooting just 6 of 32. The Rebels’ fullcourt pressure gave the Blue Eagles problems, leading to 14 first-half turnovers, which prevented Magnolia from holding a bigger lead.

“I didn’t think the focus was there,” Ritchie coach David McCullough said. “When things went bad, they kept going bad. Magnolia did a good job and did what they needed to do. They took the ball out of the hands of our scorers and they used their height. If you’re going to miss shots, it’s hard to get an offensive rebound in there. That was the biggest thing tonight — we relied too much on the three when we should’ve attacked the foul line area more.”

The Blue Eagles protected the ball much better out of halftime and broke the contest open with a critical 11-0 run early in the third quarter.

After a Sydney Kopshina three-pointer allowed Ritchie to tied it at 18, the Blue Eagles got layups from Jenna Blain, Holland Estep and Mady Winters to match their biggest lead to that point at six with 4:59 left in the period.

The Rebels called a timeout, but it did nothing to change the momentum. Instead, Blain scored inside again and Estep followed with a triple, giving MHS a 29-18 lead with 3:50 remaining in the quarter.

Magnolia’s Holland Estep (44) passes to a cutting Mady Winters during Tuesday’s game at Ritchie County. Photo by Greg Carey/

Winters accounted for two more third-quarter field goals to give her six points in the frame, helping Magnolia take a 36-26 lead into the fourth. The Blue Eagles had only one third-quarter turnover.

“We’ve actually struggled coming out in the third quarter,” Pilant said. “It’s been our roughest patch and we normally go on a three-minute spurt where we turn the ball over and tonight they executed in the third quarter. We stressed to them — take care of the basketball and hold them to one shot and they did a great job executing the game plan in the third quarter.”

The Rebels never got the deficit into single digits over the final period, and instead faced a 16-point deficit after the Blue Eagles started the fourth on an 8-2 surge that featured a pair of follow-up baskets from Winters.

In addition to a game-high 16 points, Winters had 12 rebounds in each half to lead all players with 24 boards. Estep also had a double-double and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. With 34 combined rebounds, Winters and Estep nearly matched the Rebels’ team total and helped Magnolia control the boards, 55-36.

“Everybody knows who Mady Winters is, so that’s not a surprise,” Pilant said. “But Holland is really coming around. She’s playing aggressive and grabbing everything that comes her way. She’s able to go outside and shoot and she’s able to go inside. It’s hard to stop with her height and her strength.”

Kopshina was Ritchie’s lone double figure scorer with 10 points. Although the Rebels had seven turnovers and forced 21, they couldn’t overcome 15-of-69 shooting in a season-ending setback to a team they beat 48-31 during the regular season.

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McKinley leads forum on Keystone XL, permit revocation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Republican lawmakers with the U.S. House of Representatives held a forum Tuesday concerning President Joe Biden’s decision revoking the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, highlighting their concerns with the project’s cancellation.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., hosted the event, in which members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked participants about the impact of the administration’s decision.

Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 20 — his first day in office — to cancel the 2019 permit for the project, which would have resulted in the transportation of thousands of barrels of oil from Canada to Nebraska. The president explained the project did not serve the national interest as the administration focuses its attention on economic development related to clean energy.

The Obama administration did not approve the project permit in 2015, but the Trump administration backed the pipeline in 2017 and signed a cross-border authorization two years later. TC Energy Corp., the company behind the project, estimates the pipeline would have directly employed 11,000 Americans and resulted in more than $1.6 billion in gross wages.

McKinley, the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee’s ranking member, said the president’s decision will result in lost jobs and economic opportunities. He also warned the administration’s actions could lead to similar cancellations of other oil and natural gas projects.

“Keystone is just one pipeline project under the microscope,” he said.

“From a business perspective, this uncertainty causes alarm for any of us that have been in business. Financial institutions and investors look for certainty when funding a project,” McKinley added. “Why would Wall Street or any other entity invest in a project that requires a permit simply to see it withdrawn by a different administration, which could be years later?”

McKinley and the other lawmakers heard from Saskatchewan, Canada Premier Scott Moe, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and John Stoody with the Association of Oil Pipelines. Moe, whose province is impacted by the current and proposed pipelines, argued the Biden administration’s decision affects the economy of both the United States and Canada, as well as the trade relationship between the two countries.

“Oil can and will get to market somehow, and it will just go in a different route,” he said. “It will go by rail or, in many cases, by truck.”

Moe also noted the pipeline would be a safer method for transporting oil with fewer emissions produced through the process.

“Without new pipelines like Keystone XL, shipments of oil by rail and going to increase in the years ahead for all of us in North America,” Moe added.

TC Energy in January announced the project would be fully powered by renewable sources of energy by 2030.

Knudsen said Montana was not consulted about the president’s decision before Biden signed the executive order. Knudsen also criticized the Biden administration’s energy and economic goals as pipeline work remains halted.

“The promises are as empty as the pipes sitting idly in the empty construction yards in Montana now,” he said.

Knudsen and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are leading a legal challenge to the executive order; twenty-one state attorneys general, including West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, argue the president’s revocation of the permit is a regulation of interstate commerce, which only Congress has the authority to oversee.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have also spoken about the administration’s decision; Manchin wrote a letter to Biden in February asking him to reconsider the decision. Capito has argued against the administration’s energy platform and opposed confirming Cabinet members responsible for advising the president on energy policies.

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Court documents: CPS workers received case involving Fairmont child

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Court documents related to the arrest of two Child Protective Services workers show the employees received a case involving child abuse allegations against a Fairmont man before a four-year-old’s death last month.

Tabetha Phillips-Friend, 44, and 25-year-old Breeana Bizub face charges of involuntary manslaughter and failure to report child abuse to law enforcement following the child’s death. The parents, 33-year-old Walter Richardson and 28-year-old Ashlee Allen, have been charged with first-degree murder and the death of a child by a parent or guardian respectively.

Authorities found the child unresponsive and showing visible blood on his clothing when they arrived at a Green Street residence on March 4. The child was transported to Fairmont Medical Center and then J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where he died on March 8.

According to court documents, one worker met with the family on Jan. 25, when the person learned Richardson attacked the child. The worker drafted a temporary protection plan allowing Marion County Child Protective Services to conduct an additional assessment.

Phillips-Friend and Bizub received the case on Jan. 26. Court documents indicate a follow-up assessment was not completed before March 4, and the two workers did not provide law enforcement with a copy of the child abuse report.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM on Monday that Phillips-Friend and Bizub have been fired.

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Health officials adjust plans with vaccinations following Johnson & Johnson pause

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall University was all set to give out the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to its students for the first time on Tuesday until it wasn’t.

Daniel Persinger, an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at Marshall and leading the logistics of the clinics on campus, received word early in the morning that there was a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pause that usage of that vaccine.

The recommendation came following six reported U.S. cases of a rare type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine out of 6.8 million doses given nationwide.

Persinger and Marshall officials quickly shifted with the Cabell-Huntington Department to ensure a clinic held in the Don Morris Room could go on.

“We were notified at 7 a.m. that Johnson and Johnson had a pause on it from the CDC and the FDA. Immediately we got in contact with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and tried to find a way to hold a vaccine clinic,” Persinger told MetroNews.

Three hundred Moderna vaccine doses were given out to students on Tuesday, each student having to come back in three weeks for a second dose. Persinger said Tuesday was scheduled to be the first time Marshall had given Johnson & Johnson doses out all year because a patient only needs one shot, and time in the semester is winding down. WVU paused Johnson & Johnson vaccination as well.

Due to this morning’s pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the CDC and FDA, today’s on-campus vaccination clinic will use the Moderna vaccine, which requires a second dose. Everyone who receives their first dose today will be notified when it’s time for their second dose.

— President Gilbert (@MarshalluPres) April 13, 2021

2,579 first doses of a vaccine have been given at Marshall during the pandemic, as of the latest update on the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. 1,766-second doses have been given out.

Persinger said no students expressed hesitancy when given Moderna at the last second. He hopes that it stays that way as Marshall’s COVID-19 numbers have gone down with only 10 cases on campus according to the dashboard.

“Our goal from day one is to educate students and staff on the benefits of receiving the vaccine. We hope this is a blip on the radar for vaccine hesitancy,” Persinger said.

Shortly after the announcement from the CDC and FDA, Gov. Jim Justice announced that all use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in West Virginia would be paused immediately until further notice.

Dr. Sherri Young, chief health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) described the rare type of blood clot found in six individuals, including one fatal case, to be Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST). All six cases were found in females between the age of 18 and 49.

“It’s very difficult to treat, it’s very complicated, it’s a severe complication. If this was a more minor complication I don’t know they would have taken the same stance because it is so exceedingly rare. Six cases in seven million. But it’s enough to say pause,” she said at a press conference.

Dr. Sherri Young

The KCHD has vaccinated 1,888 citizens with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Young said that as of Tuesday no severe side effects have been reported in the county. However, KCHD is monitoring CAMC Neurology and other local hospitals to see if anything has been reported.

Young said if a person received the Johnson & Johnson shot three or more weeks ago then they should not have to worry.

“For those who are concerned about symptoms or complications, or have risk factors, here is what you need to look for. Severe headache, abnormal swelling in the lower extremities, or symptoms of a blood clot. Chest pain, chest tightness, difficulty breathing. Those are symptoms you would look for because they are either precursors or symptoms of CVST,” Young said.

Young said KCHD had 800 Johnson & Johnson doses set to be used in drive-thru and community events. She said the health department will shelve the doses, which have a six-month shelf life and wait until a further recommendation from the CDC.

She said many events will shift to Pfizer or Moderna and the county is in ‘good shape’ with allotments. According to Young, there should be no concern about receiving Pfizer or Moderna because they are made differently than Johnson & Johnson.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is holding a meeting Wednesday to determine how to go forward, Young said. The committee will assess the situation and see if any safety measures need to be put into place before the resumption of the vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement, “The safety and well-being of our people who use our products is our number one priority. At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the vaccine.”

The WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), through the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), has not received any reports of these extremely rare blood-clotting events in West Virginia residents who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Justice’s office said. The DHHR will continue to monitor for instances going forward.

465,793 West Virginians have been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to the DHHR. 665,930 first doses have been administered.

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Three Guys Before The Game – A Visit With Blaine Stewart (Episode 283)

Football is the family business for Blaine Stewart.  The son of the late WVU football coach Bill Stewart, was 5-years old when his dad arrived in Morgantown as an assistant coach for Don Nehlen. 

Two decades later, Blaine Stewart is ready to begin his fourth season on the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  At 26-years old, his rise within the coaching ranks has been nothing but impressive.

Along the way, he’s experienced the highs and lows of being a coach’s son, a player and a professional coach.

On this episode of Three Guys Before The Game, Brad Howe and Tony Caridi take a walk down memory lane with Blaine to get his insights and reflections on a memorable era of West Virginia University football and his current role with the Steelers organization. 

Join the “Guys” next week as they preview the annual Gold and Blue Spring Game.

Three Guys Before The Game is brought to you by Burdette Camping Center and the Mountaineer Athletic Club’s Time – 2- Climb Campaign.  Don’t forget to check out Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, subscribe below.

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CAMC Covid 19 case numbers on the upswing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although the Charleston Area Medical Center saw a jump in Covid 19 patients in recent days, it’s nothing the hospital considers unmanageable. Dale Witte, spokesman for the CAMC Health Systems ,noted the recent rise in case numbers is minimal compared to earlier in the year.

“Our rise in Covid patients in the last couple of weeks is only about a fourth of our peak level in the early days of January,” Witte explained.

The system of four hospitals averaged over 100 patients a day in January. Over time, those case numbers continued to fall until a couple of weeks ago when the rise started. Now there are roughly 25 Covid patients across the system’s four operations daily.

Witte added they’ve evolved with the virus in their approach to dealing with it. A year ago, CAMC operated a number of drive-thru testing clinics. One was at the Chesterfield Lab Works location and it’s still there today, but there, but other drive-thru testing centers at CAMC Teays Valley and CAMC Women’s and Children’s Hospital have since been discontinued. Patients who fear they may have contracted the virus can go through the outdoor, drive-thru facility in Charleston just in case. Otherwise, Witte said the need for testing had dropped dramatically.

CAMC has used its personnel to help the local health departments in Kanawha and Putnam County with the ongoing vaccination work. The pandemic spurred the hospital toward development of a mobile unit to take the resources on the road to other counties and more rural locations in southern West Virginia. The mobile unit is now being built and should be ready in August..

“Our permanent mobile unit is being built. In the meantime, we’ve rented one and we’re working with some county health departments to see if we can assist with some focused vaccination clinics with them,” he said.

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Police locate pickup truck in Charleston homicide case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Police have located a vehicle they were seeking in connection with the death of Capital High School student K-J Taylor.

The grey and white, two-toned, late 2000’s model Ford F150 was located in Kanawha County Monday evening. Police have not indicated any other information about the investigation or if the pickup truck helped develop a suspect in the 18-year old’s murder.

Taylor was shot down on Charleston’s Central Avenue last week while walking with friends. The shooter sped away from the scene. Police were able to develop the truck as a vehicle of interest in the investigation using various surveillance video cameras along Central Avenue and continue to look for other video which might help with the investigation.

Police are also still looking for any information on the shooting of Taylor who would have graduated next month from Capital High School. He was a well known and popular athlete for the Cougar football and basketball programs.

Anyone with information regarding the homicide is urged to contact the Charleston Police Department Criminal Investigation Division, 304-348-6480.

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