CHARLESTON — The graduation of starter Jordan Whitt will be a big loss for the Chapmanville Regional High School basketball team.
Whitt, a 6-foot-3 forward, who averaged 10.7 points per game this season, is the only senior who will be lost, however, when the Tigers take to the hardwood next season.
That’s good news for Chapmanville, which nearly shocked the state on Wednesday with a narrow, nail-biting 30-28 loss to the No. 1-ranked Poca Dots in the Class AA state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
It may sound cliche but the future looks bright for Chapmanville basketball.
Four starters will be back for the Tigers, which closed out 17-9, including: 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Drew Williamson (19.6 ppg.); 5-10 sophomore guard Dylan Smith (10.3); 5-9 sophomore guard Kyle Browning (9.1); and 6-7 junior center Hunter Neil (9.8).
Top reserve Tyler Moore, a 6-5 junior forward, who came off the bench for part of the season and averaged 8.1 points per contest, will also be back, as well as Devin Collins (5-10 freshman guard) and James Ellis (6-2 sophomore forward) who also saw some varsity time this year.
Eight other Tigers, mostly freshmen and sophomores, will also be back.
Chapmanville put on a defensive clinic against Poca, holding the Dots to just seven field goals and 20 percent shooting.
“If you watched us play the last seven or eight games we’ve been playing well and we’ve been pretty good defensively,” CRHS first-year coach Brad Napier said. “I’ve been coaching 15 years and this team was as good defenisvely as any team that I’ve coached. We have an extremely young team. We start three sophomores, a junior and a senior. Our guys have grew up a lot throughout the season. We’re just a different team.”
Chapmanville assistant coach Larry Dingess said several people — including nuetral fans, other strangers and even Poca fans — commended the Tigers with their near upset effort.
The Tigers, making only their second-ever state tournament appearance, definitely seemed to earn some respect.
“No one outside our locker room believed but we were determined to shock the state,” Dingess said. “There are no moral victories and it is still a loss, but we won a lot of respect in Charleston. Slowing the pace, controlling tempo, and the ‘Poca rules’ almost made history.”
Dingess said it was a great experience for the Chapmanville team and its fans.
“We wanted to turn the game inside the paint more like football — nothing cheap and nothing dirty but good hard, physical basketball. It worked for 31 minutes and 58.2 seconds, but that is why Poca is the defending state champs,” Dingess said. “They found a way to win at the end. This is a great experience for the kids and we will build on this game for a basketball program — not just a good team every decade — but a program.”
Dingess said the Chapmanville and Harts communities rallied behind the team this season. The Tigers ended up winning sectional and co-regional championships en route to the state tournament.
“The coaches, players and staff appreciate all the work and effort that all of these individuals and businesses put in to making this possible. Even though we didn’t win the game we still shocked the state,” Dingess said. “The community rallied around this team. We had people from Harts, Chapmanville and Logan financially help these kids. The Logan County Board of Education got involved. When Phyllis Doty found out the Tigers were going back to Charleston, she was one of the first to step up to help the kids. Mark McGrew and Danny Ellis from the Logan County Commission and Senator Art Kirkendoll were also quick to see that the kids had what they needed to make this trip possible.”
Next year, Chapmanville will play in a new sectional with county rivals Man and Logan as well as Scott, Mingo Central and Lincoln County.
Logan is moving down from Triple-A to 2A and Man is moving up to Double-A from Single-A. Lincoln County, a former 3A school, is also going down to Double-A.
Old opponents Wayne and Tolsia will not be in Region 4 Section 2 next season. Wayne is being shipped out to another section, while the Rebels are falling back down to Class A and will also be leaving the Cardinal Conference.
Next season’s Cardinal Conference will be expanding to 10 teams with the addition of Logan, Winfield and Nitro.
Like Logan, Nitro and Winfield are also dropping in classification to the Double-A ranks.
With the addition of Logan and Man, half the sectional will be made up of Logan County schools.
There will be one problem, though, that will need to be sorted out.
With a neutral site and big gym needed for the sectional tourney where will it be held?
The Williamson Fieldhouse and even the Charleston Civic Center have been mentioned.
Chapmanville will also be playing its old rival Logan again. When next season rolls around it will have been seven years since the two teams last met.
Logan has dominated the rivalry and have a string of 25-plus straight wins over the Tigers when the series was resumed in 2002.
The Wildcats also have a lot of returning players coming back from its 10-14 Class AAA regional runner-up team. Man loses some of its top senior players, including all-state John Thomas Keffer.
Although it’s a long time away and its a rediculously early projection, a Chapmanville-Logan sectional final could be in the making.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).