CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Rye Gadd remembers his experience at the state tournament in 2019 as a freshman on Webster County’s undefeated team that won a Class A championship.
“It was crazy nerve-wracking, even though I wasn’t playing as much,” Gadd said.
Turns out, his experience paid big dividends for the Highlanders.
Gadd scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds Tuesday, keying the Class A No. 4 Highlanders to a 48-42 victory over No. 5 Clay-Battelle in a quarterfinal at the Charleston Coliseum.
“These guys never quit,” Webster coach Michael Gray said. “We might be the grittiest team here.”
Webster (12-6) had to hold off the Cee Bees (15-3) after leading 44-35 with 3:56 remaining.
Clay-Batelle ran off the next seven points, which included a three-pointer from Drew Boczek that cut the Highlanders’ lead to two with 2:23 to play.
But the Cee Bees never scored again, squandering two chances to tie or take the lead, before being forced to foul with 48 seconds left.
Gadd calmly stepped to the free-throw line and sank a pair to make it a two-possession game.
“Our shooting wasn’t what it was all year,” Clay-Battelle coach Josh Kisner said. “People talk about that happening in Charleston and it being a curse here. You don’t shoot as well as you do at home. We’re averaging in the mid 40s (percentage wise) this year and that’s the difference maker.”
After two more empty trips from the Cee Bees, Devin Coley’s layup with 8 seconds left sealed the verdict.
“We went into halftime really frustrated with each other,” Gray said. “We knew we could play better, but we just weren’t in the passing lanes. The last two or three minutes, we got hands in the passing lanes and really played harder.”
The Highlanders led 24-16 with 2:02 to play in the opening half, but Gavin Moore and Mojo Chisler made jump shots to turn the momentum in the Cee Bees’ favor, and Gage Staler’s triple just before halftime cut their deficit to one point.
While Clay-Battelle pulled even at 29 on Moore’s jump shot with 3:51 to play in the third quarter, Gadd and Carter Williams combined to score the final eight points of the period to give Webster a 37-29 lead ahead of the fourth.
“Webster is always considered undersized except the state championship team and we are undersized, but we played with grit and got the win,” Gadd said.
Gadd made 10-of-16 shots and three three-pointers.
“He’s a player. We had somebody up on him, he still finishes,” Kisner said. “Great shooter and he can get to the rim. Just a well-rounded player and we had trouble with him tonight.”
Williams, a senior, added eight points and 14 rebounds in the victory.
“Being here before made these kids more comfortable,” Gray said.
Moore had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Chisler added 12 points, six boards and three blocks in defeat.
Clay-Battelle was limited to 36 percent shooting (18 of 50) and made only 3-of-20 attempts beyond the arc.
“We run some different stuff that others don’t run and that’s why we do it,” Gray said. “It’s hard to prepare for the matchup zone, because they don’t know who’s going to be where in it. We switch so much in it. We’re really good at closing out on the three-point line, too. We’re doing some different stuff that people don’t always see and maybe that threw them off a little bit.”
Top seed Man awaits the Highlanders in a semifinal Thursday.