On a night when Logan High School honored its 1964 Class AAA state championship basketball team it was only fitting if the current Wildcats could pull off an upset win over Greenbrier East.
They did just that as Logan upeneded the top 10-ranked Spartans, 73-69, at Logan High School’s Willie Akers Arena on Friday night to improve to 8-9 on the season.
With less than two weeks away until the Class AAA sectional tourney at Cabell Midland the Wildcats are trying to build some momentum going into the post-season.
The win over East will certainly help with that as the Wildcats avenged an earlier 81-64 loss to the Spartans on the road. Greenbrier East, coached by billionaire businessman Jim Justice, dropped to 14-5.
“It was a great win for our school, our fans and our town,” Logan coach Mark Hatcher said after the game.
The Wildcats have won two out of their last three games and have four left to play before Logan is set to take part in the sectional tourney, most likely gainst Spring Valley on March 5 at Cabell Midland.
Logan was set to play at Tug Valley (12-5) on Saturday night. The Cats then host Greater Beckley Christian (10-4) on Monday night in a home makeup game before hosting Parkersburg (6-12) on Tuesday on Senior Night. The finale is this Thursday at Capital (9-4).
It was a special night for Logan basketball as LHS recognized the ‘64 state champions nearly 50 years after the Wildcats knocked off Weir 81-73 in the finals to finish with a 25-1 record.
Legendary Logan coach Willie Akers was on hand with a few members of his ‘64 team, including Jim Davidson, who went on to have a stellar collegiate career at Marshall University.
The ‘64 team, along with members of the graduating LHS Class of ‘64, were honored at midcourt during halftime. Behind them up in the rafters was the 1964 state championship sign — Logan’s first ever state title in basketball.
The game was close througout but the turning point happened with 2:37 to go and Logan trailing 64-63 when Greenbrier East star Rondale Watson fouled out. Watson, East’s go-to man and a Wake Forest recruit, left the game with 33 points.
After Watson’s departure, the game see-sawed back and forth.
Logan’s Brynden Street put the Cats ahead 65-64 and Braxton Goff’s tip-in with 1:10 to go gave the Cats the lead again at 67-66.
The Spartans’ Obiora Romeo gave his team a 68-67 lead with a bucket just seconds later.
But Logan went on top for good with 41 seconds left as Zac Acord made two free throws. He would finish with 28 points and was 5-for-6 from the foul line in the final minute of the game.
Leading 70-69, Acord made two more charity tosses with 20 seconds left as the Wildcats pushed the lead to 72-69.
Greenbrier East attempted to tie it but a 3-point shot was an airball and Zak Miller was fouled with nine seconds remaining. Miller split from the line to seal the game. Miller finished with 12 points.
Street and Goff each tossed in 15 points. Seth Barker had two points.
Tyshaun Walker also had 10 points for East. Tyler Canterbury had eight, while Romeo, a 6-foot-8 center, also had eight points. Ben Allen tacked on four and Ryan Lindsey three. The Spartans were playing without Josh Tunstalle, who did not dress for unknown reasons.
The Spartans led 20-16 after one quarter and 35-31 at the half. Logan outscored East 19-18 in the third to pull to within 53-50. Logan’s 23-16 fourth was then the difference.
Hatcher said after the game he was happy to see his team break out with a big victory.
“That was a huge win for us,” Hatcher said. “I know they were shorthanded without Tunstalle but they still have two Division I players out there. We did a really good job on Canterbury. He only had two threes. The last game he had 16 or 17 points. Watson’s going to get his points.
“In the second half we did better and Josh Rein played well defensively. We did better on the switches and he did better on Watson than they did at their place.”
Hatcher said he was proud of his players’ effort.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Hatcher said. “It seemed like Zac Acord had complete control as the point guard. We put Kareem Clansy in to let Zac do some other things. Zak Miller hit some big shots. Everybody who came in did something great.”
Led by Watson’s 16 first-quarter points, the Spartans led 20-16 after one. He sank three 3s during the period.
But as the game progressed, Watson and Romeo each had to battle foul trouble. That opened the door for the Cats who kept the game close and then struck at the Spartans late.
In the second, East led 27-19 but Logan refused to lay down. A 3-pointer by Acord and another 3 by Miller closed the deficit to 27-25 with 4:39 to go until halftime.
Buckets by Acord and Street sliced the Greenbrier East lead to only one at 30-29.
Street later kept the margin at one at 32-31 but Watson put an exclamation point on the first half of play as he rocked the rim with a two-handed slam dunk. He was also fouled on the play and went to the line to complete the three-point play as East led 35-31 at the break.
Logan closed to with 53-50 in the third and stayed close in the fourth.
The Wildcats came into the game ranked No. 66 in the state in the latest MetroNews Power Index. Greenbrier East was 13th.
For the first time in quite awhile, Logan had a sizable student pep section, led by members of the LHS girls’ basketball team.
The Logan girls playfully got in a few jabs with Coach Justice, who also coaches the Greenbrier East girls’ basketball team. The Logan and East girls, both in the Class AAA’s top 10, were scheduled to play each other this season but the recent game was called off due to weather. The two played in last year’s King Coal Classic at Logan.
The LHS girls seemed like they wanted to play East on Friday night, too, holding signs that read, “Hey Justice, where are your girls?”
Upon seeing the signs before the game, a smiling Justice went over to the Logan girls’ players and had a few laughs and handshakes.
Before the game started, Logan Lady Cat Adriana Herrera even sat in Coach Justice’s trademark green swivel seat at the Spartan bench, posing for a few photos.
Herrera passed Justice along the baseline before the game and the two shook hands. Herrera smiled and joked to Justice, “Your chair is very comfortable by the way.”
Justice made is fortune in coal and agriculture, and he is revered in his home state as the man who rescued the historic Greenbrier Resort from bankruptcy.
Worth an estimated $1.7 billion, Justice is a prominent member of the tiny West Virginia community of Lewisburg, keeping a modest home and finding time to coach both basketball teams at East.
Justice ranks No. 292 on a list of wealthiest Americans by Forbes magazine, which estimates that his personal wealth has grown by $500 million in the last year.
Justice reportedly bought the Greenbrier Resort for $20 million. A total of 26 U.S. former presidents have stayed at the five-star luxury Greenbrier Resort. The last sitting president to visit was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The facility also houses a casino and former secret underground bunker which was used during the Cold War by the U.S. government. The bunker was made public after a 1992 newspaper story was published by the Washington Post.
Justice also helped organize and begin a new PGA golf tourney at the Greenbrier. Tiger Woods, and other big names on the PGA Tour, have played in the event.
Logan also won Friday night’s JV game over the Spartans, 45-41 in overtime. The long game caused a delay in the varsity game which didn’t get tipped off until 8 p.m.