CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Arick Nicks converted 1-of-2 free throws with 2.5 seconds left and No. 5 Huntington beat seventh-seeded Hurricane 55-54 in a Class AAA state championship game.
“That’s the way you want a championship game—to come down to the last seconds,” Huntington coach Ronald Hess said. “We picked our defense up in the third quarter to to get our energy back. These kids played hard and never got down and I’m so proud of these kids.”
CLASS A: Wheeling Central def. Charleston Catholic 64-55 (2 OT)
CLASS AA: Bluefield def. Robert C. Byrd 64-39
CLASS AAA: Huntington def. Hurricane 55-54
Nicks caught an inbounds lob from halfcourt and was fouled by Hurricanes’ standout J.T. Rogoszewski on the shot attempt. That turned out to be an effective second option on the play, which was designed to find mighty-mite bomber Tavian Dunn-Martin.
“You’ve got to give Nick Tubbs a lot of credit there. They switched on Tavian so he threw the ball high up there to Arick,” Hess said.
After missing the first foul shot and waiting through a Hurricane timeout, Nicks drained the second attempt.
“(The timeout) actually helped me get my mind together,” said Nicks, who wound up 4-of-7 on free throws. “I got myself together and took my time.”
Hurricane’s last chance, a 60-foot heave from Henry Sorsaia, fell short at the horn and the Highlanders faithful went justifiably berzerk.
Rogoszewski gave his thoughts on the final inbounds play: “I saw Dunn-Martin go to the corner, so I jumped over there. I left Nicks a little open and I got over there and they called a foul.”
Added Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland. “It’s just a shame that it comes down to something like that where it’s taken out of their hands.”
Huntington’s 5-foot-6 Dunn-Martin, who scored 20 points, tied the game with 48 seconds left on the fourth of his 3-pointers, this one with two defenders in his face. The supremely confident sophomore then popped his jersey toward the section of Huntington fans behind the basket.
“After the second jumper I hit off a pump fake drive to the middle, I knew I found my stroke,” Dunn-Martin said. “My teammates kept finding me and I knocked them down.”
Though Hurricane tried to hold for the last shot, Nicks stole the ball from Sorsaia near the sideline and across the floor Hess signalled timeout with 3.5 seconds left.
On the Redskins bench, Sutherland knew his team had missed an opportunity.
“We said hold it for a last-second shot,” Sutherland said. “Whoever had the advantage was to take it to the basket and score.
“We thought (the defense) would be tight and if we took it to the basket they would foul us. It just didn’t work that way.”
At worst, Hurricane had figured it was headed to another overtime game, having played three extra periods the previous night in beating Hedgesville.
Instead Huntington designed its final play, which wound up in the hands of the senior center Nicks, who took the ball up and capped a fourth quarter that saw three ties and six lead changes.
“Helleuva game,” a somber Sutherland said. “Our kids never quit and never gave up,”
Nicks finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Hurricane was led by Trey Dawson’s 15 points, including three 3s. Rogoszewski finished with 14 and Sorsaia chipped in 12.