By Paul Adkins
HURRICANE — Just three years ago the Logan High School boys’ basketball team found itself playing in the Class AAA Region 4 co-championship game at Hurricane with a shot at going to the state tournament despite having a losing record.
On Tuesday night, Logan was in the same situation — a regional final game at Hurricane for the right to play in the state tourney.
History repeated itself as the Skins toppled Logan 53-41 to end the Wildcats’ season at 10-14. Hurricane (11-14) heads to next week’s state tournament with a losing record and the No. 8 seed. The Skins are scheduled to play No. 1-ranked and top seed Morgantown (24-0) on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Hurricane wraps up a state tourney berth with a 53-41 win over Logan. (Video by Paul Adkins)
It was the second straight time Hurricane knocked off Logan in a regional final. The Skins took the 2013 meeting in a 64-58 overtime thriller on the same Hurricane High School hardwood.
Logan played the game without first-year head coach Allan Hatcher, who was recovering on Monday after reportedly undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.
The game was the final prep contest for Logan’s senior trio of Ben Kazee, Khalil Murphy and Augustine Chukwu-Noe.
It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Wildcats, which suffered their third losing campaign in the last four years.
Logan really couldn’t find an identity this year, going through several point guards, and could not show any consistency on the offensive end while playing a difficult schedule. The low-scoring Wildcats haven’t reached 60 points in a single game in two months.
Neither team really had much firepower in Tuesday night’s game.
Hurricane led just 8-3 after one quarter and 16-13 at the half. The pace picked up in the third period as both teams tallied 16 points and the Skins led 32-29.
Hurricane then outscored Logan 21-12 in the fourth to set the final score.
Logan began to attack the basket more and briefly had the lead in the third quarter but Hurricane was able to slowly pull away.
Logan assistant coach Stan Elkins, filling in for Hatcher, said the Wildcats just couldn’t get back into the game after the slow start.
“We struggled to score there in the first half,” Elkins said. “We couldn’t seem to get on the same page offensively. That was the difference in the game because we had to play catch-up. We made a nice run to try to get back into the game but we seemed to shoot ourselves in the foot with a turnover or we were unable to get a loose ball. You have to give Hurricane a lot of credit.”
It was also a very tough atmosphere for Logan playing in the small, hot Hurricane gym before a hostile crowd.
“Their fans are right on top of you,” Elkins said. “It’s difficult when you play in this kind of environment. You have to be seasoned and more mentally tough to play in this kind of atmosphere.”
Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland said he’s thrilled to get his team back into the state tournament.
“We’ve played a heck of a schedule,” he said. “We’re going to get the number one team in the state in Morgantown on Wednesday night. Our schedule prepared us for this and our record really didn’t show just how good that we are.”
No Wildcat player reached double digits in scoring. Kyle Porter and Murphy tallied nine points each to lead the way. Braxton Goff and Chukwu-Noe had six each, Will Akers had five, Kazee four and Jamal Minter two.
Nicholas Muto led the Skins with 16 points. Braxton Dobart netted 12, while Ethan Highlander had nine and Ryan Midkiff eight. Ethan Bish had four and Michael J. Watson and Evan Dearing had two each.
Hurricane led by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Logan briefly took the lead at 23-20 in the third as Goff nailed a 3-pointer with 4:41 left. Porter had just tied it at 20 with a pair of free throws.
Braxton Goff gives Logan a 23-20 lead after sinking a 3. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Midkiff then put Hurricane up for good at 24-33 with a bucket at the 4:38 mark.
Chukwu-Noe’s inside hoop kept Logan to with 28-25 with 3:03 to go.
The Wildcats’ Augustine Chukwu-Noe scores in the lane after getting a pass from Ben Kazee. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Goff’s drive to the lane with 1:17 left made it a 30-27 ballgame.
Logan’s Braxton Goff’s layup pushed the Cats to within 30-27. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Kazee’s putback in the paint pulled the Cats to within 30-29 with 43 seconds left.
Logan’s Ben Kazee inches the Cats to within 30-29 with a drive in the paint. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Hurricane then went up 32-29 as the 6-foot-4 Muto scored a bucket with 10 seconds to go on a drive down the lane.
The Skins then took control with a 6-0 run, capped off by Highlander’s drive to the rack with 5:33 to go.
Hurricane expanded the lead to 42-33 with 3:11 left after Bish netted a pair of free throws.
The Skins then put it away, taking a 12-point lead at 47-35 as Highlander split from the foul line with 1:27 remaining.
Five more free throws by Muto down the stretch then sealed it.
“We didn’t quit,” Sutherland said. “We told them in the locker room at halftime that you have 16 minutes and that you have to play like your butts are on fire and that you have to get every loose ball. They did. They came out and took it.”
Hurricane led by six in the early moments of the third quarter but Porter was able to cut that to 19-15 with a drive to the bucket with 7:19 showing on the clock.
Logan High School’s Kyle Porter scores on a drive to the lane as the Cats trail Hurricane 19-15. (Video by Paul Adkins)
A 3-pointer by Akers then cut it to 20-18 with 6:19 left in the stanza.
A 3-pointer by Logan’s Will Akers cuts the Hurricane lead to 20-18. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Logan’s Kyle Porter is fouled. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Logan was only able to score a single bucket in the first quarter — an inside spin move by Kazee.
Hurricane pushed the lead to 14-5 in the second after a Watson 10-footer and a Muto hoop in the lane.
Muto then made it 16-5 with another basket by Muto.
Logan outscored the Skins 8-0 the rest of the quarter to inch to within 16-13 at the break. Porter hit a 3 during the run and Chukwu-Noe had two hoops.
Elkins saluted Logan’s senior players.
“Our seniors played their hearts out,” he said. “They played hard and with a lot of passion. They are good kids and its been my privilege to work with them.”
Logan will have many players coming back next year, along with much heralded David Early, an eighth-grader who led the Logan Middle School team to the Mid-Valley Conference title this season.
Tuesday night also marked Logan’s last game as a Triple-A school, at least for the near future. Logan will be dropping down to 2A status next year and will rejoin the Cardinal Conference along with Nitro and Winfield, which are also dropping down.
Logan will play in a new Class AA sectional next season along with county rivals Chapmanville and Man and also Mingo Central, Scott and Lincoln County, another former 3A school which will be 2A for the first time.
“The future is bright,” Elkins said. “We’re looking forward to next year. We’re going to get in the gym and improve.”
Class AAA State Tournament
At the Charleston Civic Center
Wednesday, March 16
Game 1: 11:15 a.m. – No. 2 Huntington (23-1) vs. No. 7 Musselman (18-5)
Game 2: 7:15 p.m. – No. 1 Morgantown (24-0) vs. No. 8 Hurricane (11-14)
Thursday, March 17
Game 3: 11:15 a.m. – No. 4 Beckley Woodrow Wilson (23-2) vs. No. 5 Martinsburg (21-4)
Game 4: 7:15 p.m. – No. 3 Capital (22-3) vs. No. 6 Parkersburg South (18-7)
Friday, March 18
Game 5: 5:30 p.m. – Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner
Game 6: 9 p.m. – Game 1 winner vs. Game 4 winner
Saturday, March 19
7:15 p.m. – Class AAA boys basketball state championship