CLEAR FORK - A familiar face is back on the bench and will be leading the Westside girls team this season.

Darren Thomas, a long-time Renegades assistant coach, became the team's third coach in the last six months.

Thomas, 54, replaced Tim Kennedy, who accepted an administration job in Welch.

Kennedy had replaced long-time coach Jamie Lusk, who resigned in December, citing the need to spend more time with his family.

Thomas was a long-time assistant under Lusk and was on the staff when Westside won two state titles and finished runner-up during a three-year span in the early part of the decade.

"Coaching is kind of like a drug, when you stop you go through withdrawal symptoms," said Thomas, who was the Renegades head football coach from 2006-2012 and again in 2016.

"Back during the season I had some health issues but I've felt a lot better. My daughter is a senior (on the team) and I coached a lot of these girls as freshmen or on the junior varsity team. A bunch of the girls asked me if I would do it and I decided I would give it a shot. This will probably be my last head coaching job. I'm 54, I feel good and I'll do it as long as I can."

Thomas, who was also an assistant and later head coach of the girls team at Baileysville, isn't inheriting a bare cupboard.

Westside, 14-10 last season, return a pair of four-year starters and three, three-year starters. Point guard Makayla Morgan and Hannah Toler are four-year starters, and Riana Kenneda, Leslie Bailey and Lauren Thomas have started for three years. Morgan, Toler and Kenneda all averaged over 12 ppg last season.

Also back are top reserves Taylor Brown and Breezy St. Clair.

"We're going to have a fun season," Thomas said. "I've been around the program a long time and we aren't going to change it up. We're still going to run and get up and down the floor. Makayla is going to run our team, and we have scorers. We will be on the small side. Lauren will be our banger inside, but we don't really have a true post player."

The Renegades, once the top squad in the program, play in the same section as rival and lately the top dog in the Region, Wyoming East, Independence, Liberty and Oak Hill.

For the first time this decade, it is a wide-open section.

The strength in the region seems to lie on the other side, with state tournament qualifier Bluefield; PikeView - which, like Westside, didn't lose any players; James Monroe, who went a long stretch last year without losing to a state team; and River View, which returns several talented players.

The Renegades went 3-3 during a couple of one-day shootouts under the three-week practice window allowed by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission. They played at George Washington and beat Nitro but fell to the host Patriots and Winfield. At Concord Saturday, the Renegades beat Hurley, Virginia, and Ripley, and they lost to Pocahontas County. The Renegades were scheduled to return to Concord on Saturday.

Thomas described himself as a coaching lifer.

"There are not a lot of us left," Thomas said. "And I understand that. People want to spend more time at home."

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