By Paul Adkins
CHAPMANVILLE — With only a single senior on the roster in 6-foot-3 Jordan Whitt and a new coach the Chapmanville Regional High School boys’ basketball team wasn’t really expected to compete for a state tournament berth this season.
The talent was there but many thought the Tigers were a year away.
The Tigers, however, surprised all of the naysayers and advanced to the Class AA state tourney with Thursday night’s 57-55 victory over Cardinal Conference foe Sissonville in the Region 4 co-championship game.
Chapmanville got the No. 8 seed and are scheduled to play another Cardinal foe, Poca, in this Wednesday’s Class AA state tournament opener at the Charleston Civic Center.
Tip time is set for 5:30 p.m.
The No. 1-ranked Poca Dots (23-2), the defending state champs, survived a slowdown scare on Thursday night by outlasting Scott 20-10 in Thursday’s other Region 4 co-championship game.
For the Tigers, its their second overall state tournament berth and their second in the last three years.
It’s two in a row for first-year coach Brad Napier. The Harts native led Mingo Central to last year’s state tournament. CRHS heads to Charleston having won nine out of its last 10 games.
“The way this game and the Scott game finished it doesn’t get any more exciting or any harder on my life,” joked Napier after the game. “It was fun and we were fortunate enough to hold on there at the end and finish the game.”
Just like the Scott cliffhanger last week in the sectional championship, a game the Tigers won 38-36 on the strength of a pair of free throws by Kyle Browning with 0.1 seconds left, Chapmanville went right down to the wire with Sissonville, which closed out its season at 15-10.
Chapmanville’s Dylan Smith put the Tigers on top 57-55 with 13 seconds left as he made a free throw but missed the second. Sissonville grabbed the rebound and dribbled down court still with a chance to send the game to overtime or to possibly win it.
The Indians had a golden opportunity as Zach McCutcheon caught a missed 3 underneath the hoop but the defacto alley-oop attempt at the buzzer rolled off the rim no good.
The celebration was then on as the Tigers stormed the court.
“I thought we could do it and the kids thought that they could make it to the state tournament and have a good year,” Napier said. “We probably lost some games this year that we should have won and maybe won one or two that we probably shouldn’t have won. We’ve been up and down but we definitely have been playing our best basketball in the last two or three weeks. We’ve peaked at the right time I think and we’re going to make a run over in Charleston.”
Moments before, Chapmanville 6-foot-7 center Hunter Neil supplied the Tigers with the turning point bucket of the game as he was fouled and somehow was able to score on an off-balance 9-foot shot as he was falling down on the floor. He sank the free throw, completing the three-point play, giving the Tigers a 53-50 lead with 1:29 left.
The Tigers’ Hunter Neil scores on an acrobatic shot in the lane and was fouled. He completed the three-point play as CRHS led 53-50. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Chapmanville’s Dylan Smith scores on a baseline hoop to make it 50-48 in favor of the Tigers. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Drew Williamson then followed by making two free throws at the 1:13 mark as Chapmanville led 55-50.
Sissonville was able to get to within 56-55 with 15 ticks left after a McCutcheon putback.
Williamson led Chapmanville with 23 points. He was 3 of 4 at the foul line in the final 1:13. Smith had 15, Neil seven, Jordan Whitt six, Browning four and Tyler Moore two for the Tigers.
Chance Brown led Sissonville with 24 points. McCutcheon had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Ethan Granata and Seth Bowling had six points each. Nathan Samples had four and Hunter Thomas two.
The Indians raced out to a 12-4 lead early on but Chapmanville went on a 15-3 run to grab a 19-15 lead after one.
Smith’s layup and 3 put Chapmanville ahead 15-12 with 1:58 to go until halftime. Smith then had a steal and score to make it 17-14 at the one-minute mark.
Whitt’s 15-foot baseline jumper with 31 seconds left put the Tigers up four after one.
The Tigers then opened up a 37-21 lead in the second period, going on an 18-6 run, sparked by a 25-foot 3-pointer by Williamson and a 3 by Smith. Neil also had a key putback during the scoring spree.
Chapmanville led 37-24 at the half and led 46-35 after three.
“I think our pressure got to them some in the second quarter and late in the first quarter,” Napier said. “In the second half we relaxed a little bit. Then Kyle and Hunter got into some foul trouble, so we had to be a little bit less aggressive. I think that hurt us some in the second half.”
Williamson’s 3 with 4:18 to go in the third third gave the Tigers a 40-27 lead.
Sissonville then sank a couple of baskets to close to within 40-31 after Browning was whistled for a foul only moments earlier.
Chapmanville’s Kyle Browning is called for an offensive foul in Thursday night’s game. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Brown’s 3 then cut it to 40-34 with 2:10 to go.
“Chance Brown got real hot. He didn’t miss,” Williamson said. “But we just out-toughed them I thought. Everyone played real well. Hunter got a big and-one for us, Dylan played well, Kyle played well and everyone played well.”
Williamson responded with a drive down the lane to give the Tigers a 42-34 edge at the 1:33 mark.
Chapmanville’s Drew Williamson scores on a drive to the bucket to push the Tigers to a 42-34 lead. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Moore’s turnaround bank shot along the baseline pushed the lead to 44-34 with 1:09 to go.
Tyler Moore’s turnaround bankshot puts the Tigers up 44-34. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Whitt then scored a hoop inside the paint with 18 ticks left as Chapmanville led 46-35 after three.
Dylan Smith feeds Jordan Whitt for a lay-in as the Tigers lead expands to 46-35. (Video by Paul Adkins)
“They came out ready to play in the second half,” Whitt said of Sissonville.
Coach Napier said he’s happy with his team’s turnaround late in the season.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” he said. “They’ve been a pleasure to coach and they’ve worked extremely hard for this. They deserve it. This is big and it’s big for the program to make it back to the state tournament. It’s big for the players because they have worked extremely hard and they have done everything we have asked them to do this year.”
With the game tied at 50, CRHS coach Brad Napier sets up a play. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Smith said it was a great atmosphere to play in front of a packed crowd.
“It was so loud that most of the time I couldn’t hear,” Smith said.
Moore summed it up best when asked what the difference was.
“Rebounds and hustling,” he said.
CRHS coach Brad Napier talks to his team during a timeout. (Video by Paul Adkins)