Sissonville holds off Lewis County, claims sectional championship

WESTON, W.Va. — For 6 minutes during the fourth quarter, Sissonville led Lewis County 36-34 in the Class AAA Region III, Section 2 title game.

While the Indians struggled to extend the lead during that stretch, the Minutemen failed to get even or go in front despite having numerous chances to do just that.

As the game went inside 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the next basket — assuming there would be one — felt like it would be imperative in deciding the outcome.

Fortunately for the Indians, they got it in the form of a Dylan Casto layup off a feed from teammate Ethan Taylor, allowing the visitors to double their advantage with 1:12 remaining. The score went a long way in dictating play over the final minute and helped Sissonville hold off the Minutemen, 43-36.

“Ethan did a good job of getting to the rim and trying to finish or dishing it off. The high ball screens worked well and that’s what we went to in that last situation,” Sissonville head coach Derek Godwin said. “We trust him as a ball-handler to either get to the basket or make a smart decision, which he did.”

The result allows the Indians (14-10) to stay home Wednesday and welcome PikeView for a Region III co-final, while LCHS (14-10) will play at Shady Spring the same night.

“It’s much harder to go on the road,” Godwin said. “We respect PikeView and they’ll give us a really tough time at home, but you want to avoid going to Shady to play Shady.“

Sissonville entered the final frame with a 34-30 lead, though a layup from Pason Kelley allowed the Minutemen to cut their deficit in half within seconds.

Following Taylor’s driving basket in response, the Minutemen again pulled to within two on a pair of Ben Putnam free throws with 7:14 to play.

The score stayed that way until Casio’s basket from close range with 72 seconds remaining. In between, Putnam, who led Lewis County with 13 points, was whistled for his fourth personal foul on a charging call with 5:29 remaining, while Indians’ top rebounder Luke Michael suffered the same fate 28 seconds later.

After Casto scored to give the Indians a 38-34 advantage, the Minutemen committed a costly and untimely turnover out of a timeout and Taylor helped wrap up the result by making two foul shots with 37 seconds left. 

Two free throws from Tanner Griffith with 13 seconds left marked Lewis County’s only offensive production over the final 7 minutes.

“We had our chances,” Minutemen head coach Charles Simms said. “We had four straight possessions at 36-34 where we’re within 4 feet of the basket and can’t put it in the hole.” 

Sissonville got off to the exact start it desired and built a 13-2 lead in less than 6 minutes. During that stretch, the Indians ran off 13 consecutive points, six of which Taylor scored and five of which Casto provided.

“We watched some film on Lewis and noticed that in many games they’ve won, they got out to an early lead,” Godwin said. “So we emphasized that we had to get an early lead and by doing that, we can hang around and win the game.”

The Minutemen scored the final four points of the opening frame to trail by seven, though their deficit was 18-8 a few minutes into the second quarter following a triple from Tanner Griffith (one on each team).

That’s when Putnam went on a personal 9-0 run to get his team squarely back into the game. It began with a conventional three-point play 4:20 before halftime and also featured a pair of jump shots and two free throws, before Kelley converted a transition layup 1:10 before halftime to give the Minutemen their first lead at 19-18.

The teams went to the break knotted at 19, and the Minutemen went in front early in the third courtesy of their only triple from Bryant Zielinski.

However, a conventional three-point play from Jake Wiseman along with a Casto triple allowed the visitors to score the next six points. 

Sissonville would never trail again and built a 34-26 advantage late in the third after Casto scored in the paint, though LCHS got Isaac Smith’s layup and a Zielinski jump shot in the final seconds of the third to cut its deficit in half.

Taylor made 6-of-9 shots and led all players with 14 points, while Casto was 5 for 8 and scored 12. Michael had a game-high 11 rebounds.

Putnam was the only double-figure scorer for the Minutemen, who made only 12-of-41 shots, including 4 of 20 after halftime.

“Our study and what we said all week long was to keep their guards in front of you and not to allow penetration, because that’s when they’ll get in the lane, kick it and get a wide open three,” Godwin said. “We stayed in front and did a good job with hard close-outs.”

Kelley totaled 10 rebounds in the loss.

“They’ve been knocked down,” Simms said. “How they get back up defines their character.”

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