CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Chapmanville Regional High School basketball team definitely earned some respect in the Class AA state tournament.
Having never won a game in the state tourney in the school’s history, Chapmanville dispatched Wyoming East 65-42 in Thursday’s quarterfinals, rolled past Lincoln, 57-40 in Friday’s semifinals and came within a whisker of winning the state title after faltering late to Fairmont Senior in a 59-54 loss to the Polar Bears in the finals at the Charleston Civic Center on Saturday afternoon.
Chapmanville led Fairmont 46-37 with 6:35 left and Tigers’ fans could almost taste a state title.
The Tigers were up 48-40 with 4:59 to go and still held a 50-45 edge with 2:49 left before the No. 1 seed and No. 1-ranked Polar Bears (25-3) were able to rally to win their second straight state championship.
Sure, it was a disappointing turn of events for Chapmanville but the Tigers, which concluded a 23-5 season, showed they could play with anybody in the state.
Chapmanville loses 6-foot-7 senior starter Hunter Neil to graduation, along with 6-5 reserve Tyler Moore and a pair of bench players in Tristan Browning and Fidelis Nwafor but the bulk of the Tigers’ team will be back for the 2017-18 season.
Returning will be starters Drew Williamson, Dylan Smith, Kyle Browning and 6-8 freshman center Obinna Killen, who made his presence known to a statewide stage in the state tournament.
CRHS will also have back Philip Mullins, Devin Collins, James Ellis, Brennan Williams and others, so the Tigers will most likely be a major player next season when it comes to state championship contention.
“I hope so,” Chapmanville coach Brad Napier said. “These guys have worked extremely hard. They are a close group. I’ve been coaching for 16 years now and this is one of the closest groups of kids that I’ve had. We lose four good seniors but the core group of our team is going to be back. It’s an exciting time for our community. People are excited.”
Williamson, a 6-3 junior guard, and Killen were named to the all-tournament team.
Both had fantastic state tournaments.
Williamson scored a game-high 26 points in the state title game as he was 5-for-9 from 3-point land.
In the Lincoln game, he was held to 11 points but was 3-for-7 from 3-point land and also had four rebounds.
In the win over Wyoming East, Williamson tossed in a game-high 23 points and connected on 4-of-6 3s. He also had three boards.
Killen gave the crowd a buzz with his blocked shots and slam dunks. He dunked three times in the Lincoln game and twice more against Fairmont.
In the finals, Killen had 12 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double and also swatted five shots.
Against the Lincoln Cougars, Killen nearly had a triple-double with a team-high 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks.
In the East game, Killen had 11 points, three boards and two blocks.
Williamson said the Tigers will be back in the state tournament.
“We’re going to be back here next year,” Williamson said.
Killen was asked the same question in Saturday’s post-game press conference and nodded.
“Yes,” he said.
The soft-spoken Smith agreed.
“We’ll be back,” he said.
Williamson said CRHS has a close-knit team.
“I’m proud to play with this bunch of guys,” he said. “I love them all to death. We knew that if we played hard it would be an exciting game. That was our goal to make it tight.”
Chapmanville and Fairmont had met before three months ago in the Big Ten/Cardinal Conference Challenge with the Polar Bears winning easily 72-54.
It was much different this time.
“We’re just a better team (now),” Napier said, when asked about the disparity. “We’re just a better all-around team. Today, we had a couple guys who were sick. Devin Collins was really sick today. That’s why he didn’t get a lot of minutes today. He had been playing really good for us. Different guys have stepped up throughout the season and that’s made us a better team and a more balanced team. We’re a deeper team now that we were then and our young guys are playing with a lot more confidence.”
Fairmont coach Dave Retton gave credit where credit is due saying Chapmanville gave his team all it wanted.
“All the credit in the world goes to Chapmanville,” Retton said. “They outplayed us. I’ve been in that situation before because I’ve sat in their locker room. I’m glad I’m not sitting in it but I’ve sat in that locker room after games like this where you’ve felt like you’ve outplayed someone for 28-29 minutes. It was almost similar to how we jumped on Poca two years ago (in a Class AA state championship game loss) and they came back and outplayed us down the stretch.”
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner.