PHOTO | Boothe Davis: Captured by the Moment Photography
Bill Lusk | WVOW Sports
LOGAN, WVa From start to finish, Class A number two Man dominated Thursday night in its postseason opener at Willie Akers Arena against Van.
With three minutes to go in the third quarter, the starters were out of the game and resting while the bench closed out a dominating performance that the top-seed Hillbillies defeat the fifth-seeded Bulldogs 85-28 in the Class A Region 4 Section 1 tournament.
Man left doubt as the Hillbillies jumped out to a 24-2 lead after one quarter and exploded for 30 points in the second quarter while holding Van to just seven first half points to lead 54-7 at halftime.
“Anything can happen in sectional play, and I warned these guys in practice and before the game to not them lightly just because you beat them twice in the regular season,” Man coach TJ Blevins said. “I knew coming into it that we were going to play good because of our practices, but I didn’t think we would come out and do what we did the first quarter and first half.”
Van made 2 of 25 attempts from the field in the first half and turned the ball over 14 times. The Hillbillies scored the game's first 24 points as Van missed its first 13 shots from the field.
Jax McCarthy ended the Bulldogs scoring drought with a tip in off a Byron Stewart jumped with 0:12 remaining the first quarter. Stewart hit a 3 with 7:06 to play in the second quarter, however, the Bulldogs would miss their final nine shots of the first half.
“We couldn’t make a basket,” Van coach Dave Gogas said. “We were a little awestruck of the defending state champs.”
Man’s defense forced 13 steals in the first half, turning those into 22 points, and made 24 of 36 shots from the field in the opening half.
“Anytime you can get double digit turnovers that is a credit to defense,” Blevins said. “I preach and preach in practice active hands causes tipped passes, and tipped passes causes turnovers.”
“I had to get them a few times to get their hands up and it seems like you got to take baby steps at first,” Blevins said. “Once they get going, they see it works, and the answer is the turnovers we got.”
In all, Man forced 20 Van turnovers converting them into 28 points. From the field, Man connected on 36 of 69 shots from the field, most of which coming in transition off turnovers or defensive rebounds and assisted on 21 of 36 made field goals.
“We the ball pretty well on offense, got a lot of open looks and knocked down open shots,” Blevins said. “We are getting hot at the right time.”
Caleb Blevins led the way with 18 points while Jeremiah Harless posted his 15th consecutive double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds to go along with five assists, four blocks and two steals.
“We were wondering if he had another double-double, but he said he didn’t know about the rebounds, but I thought he did,” Blevins said. “He is just on a roll.”
Aden Martin and James Scites scored 10 points while Trey Brown just missed double figures finishing with nine points as 10 of 12 players cracked the score column for the Hillbillies.
“We get these guys shooting it is going to be hard for anybody to stop us,” Blevins said. “Inside and out now, we got the complete package, we got ball handlers, and it is going to be fun if we continue to move.”
Man led by as many as 62 points in the second half, but Van would not quit as the Bulldogs played every possession as if the score were tied or as if they were behind by a few.
“That is all you could ask for as a coach,” Gogas said. “I am proud of them.”
Van advanced to Thursday’s sectional semifinals after defeating fourth-seeded Tolsia, 67-52, Wednesday night.
“That was big for our program next year,” Gogas said. “We were able to get that win and maybe that will light a fire in them for next year.”
McCarty led Van with eight points. Brayden Roe had four and Payton Pauley and Stewart had three each for the Bulldogs, who end the season with a 3-20 record.
Man, winners of 16 straight games, improved to 20-2 on the year. It is the first 20-win season in school history and the 16 game winning streak is also a school record.
“Anytime you can get 20 wins that is exciting,” Blevins said. “After what we had done last season, a lot of people had doubts that we would even get this far.”
“You look now, and we have put up 20 wins,” Blevins said. “That is just a credit to these guys how hard they work day in and day out in practice.”
Man will look for its first sectional championship since the 2004-05 season when they face second-seeded Tug Valley Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Willie Akers Arena.
Man has defeated Tug Valley twice this season, 64-59, on Jan. 31 at Tug Valley High School, and defeated the Panthers, 46-40, on Feb. 15 at Man Memorial Fieldhouse despite shooting just 26 percent.
“We are going to watch some film from the first two games, and study them a little more,” Blevins said. “The game we played at home, Caleb scored two or three points and was not that big of a factor.”
“I am think I am going to look for a different outcome Saturday night,” Blevins said. “I think we are going to be a little more prepared, more ready for them, and it should be a barnburner.”
Class A Region 4 Section 1 Tournament
At Willie Akers Arena
Man 85, Van 28
Jax McCarty 2-10 4-4 8, Brayden Roe 2-12 0-0 4, Byron Stewart 1-9 0-0 3, Payton Pauley 1-2 0-0 3, Shaun Booth 1-9 0-0 2, Josh Marcum 1-2 0-0 2, Brady Green 1-9 0-2 2, Gavin Branham 1-3 0-0 2, Jacob Reed 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 11-57 4-4 28.
Caleb Blevins 7-15 4-5 18, Jeremiah Harless 8-10 0-1 16, Aden Martin 5-11 0-0 10,
James Scites 4-5 2-3 10, Trey Brown 3-6 0-0 9, Jacob Walls 2-4 0-0 6, Andrew Cozart 2-3 2-4 6, Brady Hall-Montgomery 2-2 0-0 4, Colton Miller 2-7 0-0 4, Jordan Adams 1-4 0-0 2, Jayden Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Logan Harvey 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 36-69 8-13 85.
Van 2 5 14 7- 28
Man 24 30 16 15- 85
3-point field goals- Van 2-18 (McCarty 0-1, Roe 0-7, Stewart 1-4, Pauley 1-1, Booth 0-2, Green 0-2, Branham 0-1), Man 5-20 (Blevins 0-4, Martin 0-2, Scites 0-1, Brown, T. 3-6, Walls 2-3, Cozart 0-1, Miller 0-1, Brown, J. 0-1, Harvey 0-1). Rebounds- Van 35 (McCarty 8), Man 42 (Harless 13).
Assists- Van 7 (Roe 3), Man 21 (Harless 5). Total fouls- Van 11, Man 5. Fouled out- None. Technical fouls- None.
Class A Region 4 Section 1 Tournament Schedule/Results
All games at Willie Akers Arena
Wednesday, March 2
5) Van 67, 4) Tolsia 52
Thursday, March 3
1) Man 85, 5) Van 28
2) Tug Valley 45, 3) Sherman 31
Saturday, March 5
1) Man (20-2) Vs 2) Tug Valley (12-10), 7 p.m.
Class A Region 4 Section 2 Tournament Schedule/Results
Higher Seed Host
Saturday, February 26
5) Hannan 49, 4) Calhoun County 46
Tuesday, March 1
1) Huntington St. Joe’s 71, 5) Hannan 36
3) Gilmer County 39, 2) Wahama 38
Thursday, March 3
1) Huntington St. Joe’s 73, 3) Gilmer County 47
Huntington St. Joe’s wins Class A Region 4 Section 2
Class A Region 4 Co-finals
Wednesday, March 9
Man (20-2)/Tug Valley (12-10) loser at Huntington St. Joe’s (17-7), 7 p.m.
Gilmer County (7-16) at Man (20-2)/Tug Valley (12-10) winner, 7 p.m.