CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The cat is out of bag.
That’s for sure.
If you are not from the Chapmanville or the Logan County area or maybe not a Cardinal Conference basketball fan you might not have heard much about Obinna Killen.
You have now.
Killen is certainly not flying below the radar anymore.
Killen, Chapmanville’s 6-foot-8 freshman center, had a career game on Friday as he led the Tigers to a 57-40 Class AA state semifinal win over Lincoln at the Charleston Civic Center.
Killen nearly had a triple-double as he led Chapmanville (23-4) with 14 points and also made his presence known with game-highs of 12 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
Killen dunked three times, including a driving one-handed slam on a fast break in the closing seconds of Friday’s win over the upset-minded Cougars (13-14).
It was the final points of the game as the Tigers soon celebrated.
Just a few seconds before, Killen had a big two-handed jam, putting Chapmanville on top 55-38.
After a close first half in which Chapmanville led just 22-21, Killen helped energize the Tigers as he put down a driving two-handed slam dunk at the 4:19 mark of the third quarter, giving CRHS a 32-24 lead over the Cougars.
Killen definitely gave the Tigers the boost it needed in the semifinal win.
Chapmanville coach Brad Napier said Killen has shown marked improvement over the course of the season, particularly in the stretch run as the Tigers have gone 17-1 over its last 18 games since the end of Christmas break.
“It’s a night and day difference,” Napier said. “Early in the year he was a totally different kid. The last five or six games he’s been everywhere as he’s been rebounding, blocking shots and scoring around the basket and getting putbacks. He’s totally different.”
Napier was asked in Friday’s press conference if Killen dunks like that during practice.
“Oh yeah,” Napier said, smiling.
Williamson said Killen’s last dunk was amazing, noting that it looked like his hand kept going higher and higher above the hoop before he rocked the rim with the one-handed slam.
“That was crazy,” Williamson said. “When he gets the ball here it seems like he just keeps going up and up. We are happy for him and it’s amazing.”
Lincoln coach Jordan Toth said Killen was the difference in the game. Killen also added an assist and a steal in 28 minutes of play. He was 6-for-11 from the field and 2-for-4 from the free throw line. Killen also missed a dunk earlier in the game and was fouled on the play, eventually splitting from the free throw line.
“He was the total difference maker,” Toth said. “If he were out of the equation I think we might have been right there. It wasn’t just offensively it was also blocking shots and the presence that he has inside. He’s so long and we’re not used to that length. He blocks shots and he changes shots. Keeping him off the glass is also tough especially when he has (Hunter) Neil in there with him.”
Killen’s thunderous dunks seemed to create most of the stir across the Civic Center. However, Napier said his blocked shots and his overall defense is what he does best.
“The biggest thing that Obinna does is block shots. He blocked nine shots against Mingo Central in one of the overtime games. He basically erases 16 to 18 points off the scoreboard,” Napier said. “That’s where he really makes a difference. When we can keep him out of foul trouble it makes us a lot better defensively.”
Napier said Killen is also a good passer and is able to hold the ball up high over his head with his long wingspan and find the open man.
“Obinna’s also a great passer,” Napier said. “Two or three of these guys 3-pointers came from him throwing cross-court passes and kicking it out to them. When you double him he’s going to find the open man. He has a great feel for the game.”
Toth said he knew it would be a tough matchup with Chapmanville. The Tigers have the size with Killen, 6-7 Hunter Neil and 6-5 Tyler Moore but can also kick it out for the 3s with Williamson, Dylan Smith, Kyle Browning, Devin Collins and Philip Mullins.
Mullins, a freshman, also hit a 3 for the Tigers. Browning, Smith and Williamson hit three treys apiece.
“You have to pick your poison what you do with that team,” Toth said. “Our thought was, ‘Let’s not get Williamson started early.’ I thought we did a good job with that although he did hit a few of them early. But if you zone them they’ve got shooters. If you play man or box-and-one they’ve got length. You have to pick your poison and roll with it but they did a good job of getting the ball inside.”
Killen was unavailable for comment after the game in the press conference.
The media requested Killen to come into the interview room but a tournament official told reporters that Killen was reportedly feeling ill after the game.
In the finals
Friday’s win puts Chapmanville Regional in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. Class AA state championship game against either top seed Fairmont Senior or old sectional rival Mingo Central.
Mingo Central (20-6), the fifth seed, was scheduled to play Fairmont Senior (23-3) in Friday night’s other Class AA state semifinal.
A Chapmanville-Mingo Central game would be the fourth game between the two teams.
Chapmanville overwhelmed the Miners 62-37 at Logan in the Class AA sectional championship game recently at Logan’s Willie Akers Arena. Earlier in the season, the two teams met in a couple of overtime games with Mingo Central winning 59-56 in double OT on Feb. 4 at Chapmanville and the Tigers winning 61-59 on Feb. 14 at Mingo in a single overtime.
Since going 1-2 in the Daytona Beach Sunshine Classic over Christmas break, the loss to Mingo Central is Chapmanville’s only defeat.
Chapmanville and Fairmont Senior met early in the season at Clarksburg with the Polar Bears winning 72-54 in the Big Ten/Cardinal Conference Challenge.
It’s either going to be an All-Cardinal Conference state championship game or another Big Ten vs. Cardinal clash.
Either way, it’s going to be a rematch.
“It’s going to be wild,” CRHS junior guard Drew Williamson said. “We’re going to give it 100 percent.”
Coach Napier said either the Miners or Polar Bears will be tough to beat.
“Both teams are coached extremely well,” Napier said. “Both teams have great athletes. Fairmont is probably the most athletic team in Double-A, maybe in all of West Virginia. They have some really talented kids that are going to be really good college players. They are an athletic, up-and-down team. They try to kill you on the boards and they try to get you to turn the ball over. Fairmont and Mingo Central are two completely different teams but both of them are great. That’s going to be a battle between those two.”
Napier said Mingo Central has the complete package. Prior to coming to Chapmanville, Napier coached the Miners for three seasons and took them to the state tournament once time.
“We’ve played Mingo Central three times. In the first two games it was a two overtime loss for us and an overtime win,” Napier said. “We know those guys really well and we’ve played against them a lot. They’ve got Jeremy Dillon to deal with and they have Keshean Rhodes and Drew Hatfield. They have a very, very good team as well. They are really good at running an offense and executing.”
Chapmanville stepped up its defense in Friday’s win over Lincoln, holding the Big Ten Conference team to just 34 percent shooting for the game. The Cougars made just 15-of-43 shots for the game.
Chase Riley led Lincoln with 19 points. He was the hero on Thursday afternoon in the Cougars’ 63-59 upset win over No. 2 seed Bluefield.
“He’s a great player,” Williamson said of Riley. “I just tried to stick my hand in his face every time he shot it and make him make tough shots. He’s just a great player.”
Riley said the Tigers were tough.
“Today’s matchup was definitely tougher for me offensively,” he said. “My jumper wasn’t falling like it was yesterday but I still hit a few shots. They have the 6-8 freshman (Killen) and he makes it tough to get in there and make some shots. He jumps up and blocks shots. They did a good job defensively.”
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner.