CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In advance of Saturday’s Class AAA title game against No. 5 seed Wheeling Central, Shady Spring coach Ronnie Olson left a message on the Tigers’ board in the locker room that read ‘Win it either way. Win it fast paced or with a grind-it-out style.’
No. 3 Shady Spring went with the latter, and less than two hours later, the Tigers had secured their first state championship in school history with a 55-43 victory over the Maroon Knights at the Charleston Coliseum.
The title came anything but easily to the Tigers, something Olson had no problem with.
“What a battle,” Olson said. “You wouldn’t want to win a state championship blowing anybody out. That was a true reflection of our season.”
In fact, Shady Spring (15-2) had to overcome a sluggish first half, one that saw the Tigers make 4-of-12 field goals in the opening quarter and trail 19-11 at the midway point of the second quarter. After J.C. Maxwell’s eight points staked Central (14-3) to a 12-9 lead, Maroon Knights’ freshman Leyton Toepfer scored the team’s first seven of the second, including a three-pointer that gave his team the eight-point advantage.
“They did a good job of keeping us off balance and we weren’t patient in the beginning,” Olson said.
But Tigers’ guard Braden Chapman scored eight points in a 10-3 Shady Spring surge to end the half, cutting Central’s lead to 22-21 at halftime.
“We played terrible in the first half and we were only down by one, so we just wanted to keep our head up and keep fighting,” Chapman said.
Forty-three seconds into the second half, SSHS got a conventional three-point play from Cameron Manns, and the Tigers never trailed again.
The Tigers started the second half on a 7-0 spurt to gain a 28-22 lead.
“They have the ability with all their guys to pressure the basketball and they’re very good at it,” Central coach Mel Stephens said. “Combined with the ability to have guys that can shoot it and drive it, that’s a tough combination.”
Central guard Ryan Reasbeck rattled off eight straight points for the Maroon Knights later in the third to help them draw even at 34 with 50 seconds left in the quarter.
Shady Spring then held for one shot to end the quarter, a decision that paid off in a big way when Cole Chapman scored near the rim and and converted the free throw for the three-point play.
“Cole executed that play awesome,” Olson said. “He goes downhill all the time. It was a great momentum shift for us and it really propelled us.”
Efficiency was the name of the game in the fourth quarter for the Tigers, who made 5-of-8 field goals and 8-of-9 free throws to stay on top throughout.
All five Shady field goals in the fourth came in the paint, including layups from Cole Chapman, Manns and Todd Duncan in the first 2:27 of the frame.
Trailing 45-37, Central got a Maxwell jumper with 4:57 left, but it would get no closer than six.
Duncan made 4-of-4 free throws in the final 2:23, while Braden Chapman converted two with 1:30 left to help the Tigers preserve the victory.
“The big thing for us this season was we had trouble controlling guys off the dribble,” Stephens said. “We didn’t do a very good job of that and once they get the lead on you, they’re able to spread you out. Those guys out front are all good free-throw shooters.”
The Tigers also held Central to 4-of-16 shooting in the final quarter and 15 of 46 for the game.
“To end a game like that and win the game on the defensive end, it was amazing,” Olson said.
Braden Chapman led Shady with 14 points and seven steals. Duncan and Cole Chapman scored 12 apiece, while Duncan had seven rebounds to tie Jaedan Holstein for team-high honors.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Duncan, the Tigers’ lone senior. “This is all I wanted was to end my senior season with a state title.”
The Tigers forced 16 turnovers and committed only nine.
Reasbeck had 13 of his team-high 17 points in the second half. Maxwell added 14 points and seven boards in his final high school game.
“All I can say,” Maxwell said, “was it was a fun ride.”
Class AAA all-tournament team
Luke Keckley, Hampshire
J.C. Maxwell, Wheeling Central
Cole Chapman, Shady Spring
Seth Shilot, Winfield
Todd Duncan, Shady Spring
Ryan Reasbeck, Wheeling Central
Bryson Lucas, Robert C. Byrd
Braden Chapman, Shady Spring