CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On the strength of its three-point shooting, Elkins brought an end to Ripley’s dream season.
The No. 6 Tigers made eight of their 11 triples in the opening half, while limiting the Vikings to three points from behind the arc for the game, allowing Elkins to claim a Class AAA quarterfinal at the Charleston Coliseum, 60-49.
“We shoot a lot of threes and we rely on the three,” EHS head coach Amrit Rayfield said. “Right before these guys came off the floor in warmups I said to my assistant coaches if we get a couple to fall early, we’ll have some confidence. Part of the game plan was to get their bigs away from the basket and utilize our stretch the floor ability.”
With its first state tournament win in 73 years, Elkins (17-9) advances to a semifinal Friday against the winner of No. 2 Fairmont Senior/No. 7 North Marion.
“These guys continue to make history,” Rayfield said.
The Tigers (17-9) made 8-of-15 tries from long range through two quarters to build a 32-20 halftime lead, but RHS (23-3) didn’t go away quietly in its first state tournament appearance since 1996.
Before the third quarter was halfway through, the Vikings had their deficit down to seven as Brady Anderson scored five points to key a 7-2 spurt over the first 3:21 of the third quarter.
When 6-foot-11 center Luke Johnson scored inside at the 3:31 mark of the frame, Elkins’ lead was down to five, and it was soon gone altogether as the Vikings made 3-of-4 free throws and got another close range bucket from Johnson to pull even at 34 with 1:01 left in the third.
A pivotal stretch followed after a Tigers’ timeout in which Brock Holland made a trey that allowed Elkins to regain its lead, and Holland’s triple 7 seconds before the start of the fourth left the Vikings trailing 40-34 with 8 minutes remaining.
“I know I’m capable. I’ve been given an opportunity and I need to be ready to shoot when I get the chance,” Holland said.
Elkins carried the momentum over into the early stages of the final frame as Cory Harper’s three and a conventional three-point play from Tanner Miller made it 12 straight points for the Tigers and a 46-34 lead.
Ripley got two straight buckets from Johnson, including a dunk, to get within eight at the 6-minute mark, but the Vikings got no closer down the stretch.
Elkins made 6-of-8 free throws over the last 2:15 to maintain its distance.
“I thought we had another run in us,” Vikings’ head coach Derek Mullins said. “We were down 12 going into half and tried to take it possession by possession. Getting it back to 34-34, we helped off of somebody we shouldn’t have helped off of. Those guys started getting some confidence outside of Harper and [Malachi] Watson. Both of them lit us up in the first half. Hats off to Elkins for doing what they needed to do.”
The Tigers came out firing and got one triple apiece from Malachi Watson, Holland and Harper to lead 13-10 after the first quarter.
Five of Elkins’ seven second-quarter field goals were from behind the arc, including consecutive threes from Harper to start the period, upping the lead to nine.
“We know we’re better than a 6 seed, but our record put us otherwise,” Rayfield said. “These guys are playing well the last two or three weeks and our seniors don’t want the season to end. They’re playing like that right now and they’re locked in. They’re very mature in their approach to these games.
Watson made the other three triples in the quarter, the first of which came at the 5:37 mark and the last of which left Ripley facing a 30-16 deficit 2:27 before halftime.
“They punched us in the mouth early,” Mullins said.
Watson’s 18 first-half points were two shy of the entire Vikings’ team, and it came on 7-for-13 shooting, including 4 of 6 from distance.
He finished with 24 points and nine rebounds, helping Elkins out-rebound the Vikings, 32-27.
Harper added 14 points and six boards, while Holland scored 11.
“Coming down here is awesome enough, but we have to keep it going, keep playing and winning our games,” Harper said. “We want to stay down here. We don’t want it to be finished yet.”
The aforementioned trio combined for all 11 Tiger triples.
Johnson registered a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds to go with four blocks.
Isaiah Casto gave Ripley a second double-figure scorer with 14 points and he added four steals. Anderson recorded nine points and five boards.
The Tigers made 11-of-24 treys, while the Vikings were 1 for 13 from long distance.
“We were sped up a little bit. We didn’t run our stuff very well,” Mullins said. “We weren’t able to get the ball inside. They pressured the ball well and had good closeouts. We didn’t have many open shots. It’s hard to win games when you don’t make a lot of jump shots.”
(Elkins postgame press conference)