Chapmanville players and coaches were all smiles after defeating Charleston Catholic 59-49 for the schools third state championship Saturday evening at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center (Photo courtesy of CKG Graphics).
Bill Lusk | WVOW Sports
CHARLESTON In it’s semifinal win over Bluefield Friday night, the Chapmanville Tigers rode a strong fourth quarter finish to defeat the Beavers and advance to Saturday’s Class AA championship game.
The third-seeded Tigers picked up right where they left off the previous night scoring the game’s first 10 points in winning the school’s third state championship with a 59-49 victory over the fourth-seeded Charleston Catholic Irish Saturday evening at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.
Chapmanville missed its first shot but hit four consecutive shots and when Sal Dean hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the Tigers had a 10-0 lead with 3:42 to play in the opening quarter.
“I thought we were super relaxed today. Yesterday we were a little tense and a little shaky to start the first couple of minutes of the game yesterday,” Chapmanville coach Brad Napier said. “Today we were super relaxed, but almost a little too relaxed. I was a little uncomfortable, but these guys started off really well and they were ready to go.”
Charleston Catholic settled in and outscored Chapmanville 8-4 over the final 3:42, but still trailed the Tigers 14-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Irish managed to cut the lead to three points, 14-11, when Jayallen Turner drained a 3-pointer to start the second quarter for the Irish.
A pair of Dean free throws gave Chapmanville a 25-18 lead with 3:32 to play before halftime. Turner’s layup with 3:11 cut the deficit to five points, 25-20, but Chapmanville answered with five straight points to take a 10-point lead, 30-20 on Dean’s third 3-pointer of the first half.
“I could have had my guys a little bit prepared. I thought we got out-coached tonight for sure,” Charleston Catholic coach Hunter Moles said. “They knew right away that Sal Dean’s ball screens were going to be blitzed, so they slipped out of it quick, threw it to him and they made plays. They were doing that from the start, and it was a great coaching adjustment that we were going to blitz him.”
Catholic cut the gap to eight points, 30-22, on Turner’s jumper with 46 seconds remaining.
As if the 10-0 deficit to start the game wasn’t bad enough, the Irish were dealt a major blow during pregame warmups when starting guard Gin Cinco rolled his ankle 12 minutes prior to tip.
Moles was unsure if Cinco would play, but the gameplan called for Cinco to defend Dean, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half.
“Up until the game was literally starting, I didn’t know if he was going to play let alone start,” Moles said. “We changed up some stuff, it just shook our guys a little bit and then I should have called a timeout as soon as I saw a couple buckets.”
“That 10-0 lead really hurt us early. The whole year we have been about winning the first quarter,” Moles said. “No excuses, we can’t make excuses, I don’t want to make excuses. Chapmanville beat us today.”
With Cinco unable to start, Moles made the decision to start Kelan Swan in his place and have Turner guard Dean, a move that Moles said threw the Irish out of rhythm.
“We didn’t really want to start Jay on him because then he is running around guarding Sal Dean all night and we want Jay to score a lot of points too,” Moles said. “You have Jay up on the ball screens instead of having one of our best defenders in the help side and the rotating and the scramble was just different.”
Zion Blevins gave Chapmanville a 10-point lead, 32-22, with his jumper in the paint with seven minutes to play in the third quarter, but the Irish cut the deficit to three, 34-31, on Turner’s layup with 3:24 to play in the quarter.
Dean missed a 3-pointer with 2:35 to play as Cinco came down with the rebound for Catholic. Cinco got the ball up court to Max Wilcox, who appeared to have an easy layup that would cut the deficit to one, however, Dean was able to block the shot as Eli Smith rebounded the blocked shot.
On the other end, Devon Workman found Blevins for a layup to push the lead out to five, 36-31, with 2:23 to play in the third. Isaiah Smith added a 3-pointer with 1:32 to play to give the Tigers a 39-31 lead.
Catholic answered with four straight points to close to 39-35, but Dean’s 3 just before the third quarter buzzer sounded gave Chapmanville a 42-35 lead after three quarters.
“That block, I think we were only down three, and I think Max has a layup there and we cut it to one, but it is a four-point turnaround because it leads to an easy layup for them on the other end,” Moles said. “Our third quarter was so strong that we won by one, yes, but our third quarter we really come for that to get back in it and they hit a couple of shots.”
The Irish never recovered as Chapmanville led by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter. Chapmanville knocked down 22 of its 38 shots and assisted on 16 of 22 made baskets.
“We have really good team chemistry and our guys really enjoy being around each other,” Napier said. “We got great kids, and our kids expect to win. That is one of the biggest things to overcome.”
Napier said Chapmanville, who has won three state championships since 2017, played their tails off all week in a deep Class AA field.
“It was going to be a tall task to come away with a championship. Everybody over here was good and we had three very tough games, three very well coached teams that we had to go against and a lot to prepare for,” Napier said. “These guys really focused and did what we asked them to do.”
Chapmanville won Class AA state championships in 2018 and 2019 and was the odds on favorite to claim a third consecutive state championship in 2020 before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the state tournament.
“This group has been through a lot starting with the COVID year they were freshmen, the senior group were freshmen, and they were good. One of the better teams we ever had at Chapmanville,” Napier said. “I thought we had a really good chance to win the state championship that year and to get that ended the way it did and then coming back in that semifinal game two years ago, we just didn’t have enough.”
“Williamstown had a bunch of seniors, we had a bunch of freshmen and sophomores and experience won out. I think today that was a big thing,” Napier said. “This has probably the hardest three games of any of the state championships that we have won. We had to really fight and claw all three games.”
Charleston Catholic (20-6) defeated fifth-seeded and second ranked South Harrison in Wednesday’s Class AA Quarterfinals and defeated top-seed, top ranked and undefeated Williamstown in Friday’s Class AA Semifinals to advance to its first state championship since 2014.
“It is one of those things and I am trying to teach these guys life lessons to the game of basketball and losing in a game like this is a part of life,” Moles said. “I have lost a lot of big games, two coaching and playing, but this one definitely stings.”
“This week was tough on me emotionally and physically,” Moles said. “I just want to win and be great for my guys and want them to be prepared. I wasn’t feeling great physically and I wanted to do everything I could.”
Turner led Charleston Catholic with a game-high 26 points on 11 of 15 shooting from the floor. Wilcox added 16 points for the Irish, who were looking to win the school’s fifth state championship and first since winning the Class A championship in 2012.
“So many people are calling your phone and telling you you’re doing a great job, but the job is not finished, we’re not done yet, so you have to try to put that on the back burner and use your time wisely,” Moles said. “We haven’t been in a state championship game since 2014 and we still have 32 minutes. It might have sunk in behind the scenes a little bit that we had accomplished something and caused us to not play our best.”
Blevins and Dalton combined to score 35 points on 14 of 20 shooting from the field. The duo scored 23 of Chapmanville’s 29 second half points and knocked down 8 of 10 shots in the final 16 minutes.
Blevins finished with 19 points and Dalton 16 to lead Chapmanville (23-3) in scoring while Dean finished with 14 points for the Tigers.
Chapmanville 59, Charleston Catholic 49
Charleston Catholic (20-6)
Swan 2-4 0-0 4, Turner 11-15 1-2 26, Wilcox 6-17 3-6 16, Ranson 1-2 0-0 2, Reynolds 0-4 0-0 0. Totals: 20-45 4-8 49.
Dean 4-11 2-2 14, Blevins 8-10 2-3 19, Workman 2-3 0-0 5, Smith, I. 1-3 0-0 3, Dalton 6-10 4-8 16, Smith, E. 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 22-38 8-13 59.
Charleston Catholic 8 14 13 14- 49
Chapmanville 14 16 12 17- 59
3-point field goals_Catholic 5-19 (Swan 1-2, Turner 3-4, Wilcox 1-7, Reynolds 0-3, Cinco 0-3), Chapmanville 7-17 (Dean 4-9, Blevins 1-2, Workman 1-2, Smith, I. 1-2, Dalton 0-2). Fouled out_None. Rebounds_Catholic 27 (Turner 8), Chapmanville 20 (Dean 5, Dalton 5). Assists_Catholic 10 (Cinco 4), Chapmanville 16 (Dean 7). Total fouls_Catholic 10, Chapmanville 9. Technicals_None.
2023 Class AA All Tournament Team (from left to right) RJ Hairston (Bluefield), Zion Blevins (Chapmanville), Jayallen Turner (Charleston Catholic), Max Wilcox (Charleston Catholic), Sal Dean (Chapmanville) and Brody Dalton (Chapmanville). Not pictured: Caleb Fuller (Bluefield) and Parker Schramm (Williamstown) (Photo courtesy of CKG Graphics).