LOGAN, W.Va. — The team picture had just been taken on Wednesday night at Logan’s Willie Akers Arena following the Chapmanville Regional High School basketball team’s 65-44 win over Winfield in the Region 4 tournament.
The nets had just been cut down and Chapmanville players stood on the court, celebrating with family and friends.
There were smiles all around because the Tigers had made history, reaching the state tournament for the second straight season and for the third time in the school’s decade-long existence.
Chapmanville, 21-4 and winners of 16 out of its last 17 games since dropping two straight games in a tough Christmas break tournament in Florida, has the No. 3 seed for this week’s Class AA state tournament and will face No. 6 seed Wyoming East (15-10) on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in one of the four state quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center.
“It feels good to be able to go two years in a row,” junior guard Dylan Smith said. “It’s an unexplainable feeling. We just like to play. We worked really hard in the off-season. We practiced three or four hours a day and we’ve worked our butts off.”
The Tigers hope this year’s showing is different.
Last year, Chapmanville faced then defending Class AA state champion Poca and lost a 30-28 heartbreaker to the Cardinal Conference rival Dots.
“Last year we were really nervous going in,” Smith said. “This year we know what to expect. We should be able to win the state championship this year.”
Junior all-state guard Drew Williamson, Chapmanville’s leading scorer, said the Tigers are pumped to make it back to the state tournament.
“It feels great. The first thing is that I want to thank God for giving me and my teammates the ability to play the way we do,” Williamson said. “We’ve practiced hard and we’ve worked so hard for this and finally we can see it all coming into play.”
Williamson said off-season hard work was the difference in getting the Tigers over the hump this year.
“We put a lot of dedication into the off-season,” Williamson said. “We worked hard in the weight room. That loss last year in the state tournament left us devastated. We wanted to come back this year and show what we could do. We wanted to not just get there or just win a game. We want to win it. We’ve accomplished all of our goals this year but one and that is to win a state championship.”
Senior Hunter Neil, a 6-foot-7 forward/center, said the Tigers have the court savvy and confidence to make a deep state tournament run.
“I’m really excited and I cannot wait,” Neil said. “We come to practice every day and work our butts off. It shows by the way we play the game. We’ve got a lot of confidence this year and we think we can make it all the way.”
Tyler Moore, a 6-5 senior forward, said Chapmanville has to come ready to play this week and take care of business.
“It’s a great experience and we like to play over there and compete,” Moore said. “We have to be ready to play.”
Kyle Browning, a Chapmanville guard, said the Tigers have the depth and all-around attributes to win the state title. Chapmanville is 0-2 in its state tournament history, also falling in 2014 to Bluefield in the quarterfinals.
“We’re excited and we hope we can go over there and win the whole thing and bring a championship to Chapmanville. That’s never happened before,” Browning said. “We work hard every day in practice. We have a lot of energy at practice and that carries over to the games. It will be tough at state with Fairmont and Bluefield and some of the other teams. It’s not going to be easy.”
For 6-8 freshman center Obinna Killen it’s his first state tournament experience.
“I’m so happy as a freshman,” Killen said. “We’re happy to be going to Charleston.”
Killen said hard work got the Tigers this far.
“Practice, practice, practice and more practice,” he said. “We have practiced very very hard.”
Devin Collins, a sophomore guard, also said the Tigers can win it all.
“It feels awesome. This is great for this town,” Collins said. “We’re just not going up there to be there. We want to win the whole thing. We have a little bit of everything on this team and we have worked hard every day at practice. Someone always steps up.”
Collins said it’s a much different atmosphere at the state tournament and the infinite background at the Civic Center takes some adjustment for shooters.
“Definitely,” Collins said. “Here you have the fans and a background behind you. There it’s a lot harder to shoot. I found that out last year during warmups. It’s a lot different.”
Chapmanville, the Cardinal Conference champions, will be joined in the state tournament by two other league teams.
Mingo Central (19-6) received the No. 5 seed and will battle with No. 4 Phillip Barbour (22-3) on Thursday at 9 p.m. The Miners, which lost 62-37 to Chapmanville in the sectional title game, advanced with a regional win at Poca, ending the Dots’ 53-game home winning streak.
Herbert Hoover (13-13), another Cardinal team and the Cinderella squad, is the No. 8 seed and will meet No. 1 seed Fairmont Senior (22-3) at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The other opening round contest has No. 2 Bluefield (22-3) squaring off with No. 7 seed and underdog Lincoln (12-13) at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
If Chapmanville wins, it could face the Bluefield Beavers in Friday’s semifinals at 11:15 a.m. The other semifinal is at 7:15 p.m. with the Class AA state finals set for Saturday, March 18 at 2:30 p.m.
The Big Ten Conference also has three members in the state tourney with Fairmont Senior, Phillip Barbour and Lincoln.
Fairmont won the Big Ten title with an unblemished 15-0 mark. Phillip Barbour had a 12-3 conference mark with Lincoln going 5-11.
Chapmanville won the Cardinal with a 12-1 record. Mingo Central was 11-3. Hoover was just 2-11 in league play.
Bluefield and Wyoming East are in the Coalfield Conference.
CLASS AA STATE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Thursday, March 16
Game 1: No. 3 Chapmanville (21-4) vs. No. 6 Wyoming East (15-10), 9:30 a.m.
Game 2: No. 2 Bluefield (22-3) vs. No. 7 Lincoln (12-13), 1 p.m.
Game 3: No. 1 Fairmont Senior (22-3) vs. No. 8 Herbert Hoover (13-13), 5:30 p.m.
Game 4: No. 4 Philip Barbour (22-3) vs. No. 5 Mingo Central (19-6), 9 p.m.
Friday, March 17
Semifinal: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 11:15 a.m.
Semifinal: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 18
Class AA boys basketball state championship, 2:30 p.m.
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner.