CHAPMANVILLE — When it came to basketball, the Chapmanville Tigers were never a laughingstock.
The Tigers were many times, often times, good but just not good enough to make it to the state tournament.
Often times, Chapmanville would fall just short, many times a single game short, in the regional tournament.
But on Thursday night, 85 years of frustration and disappointment went away.
The Chapmanville Tigers are finally in the state tournament.
The Chapmanville Regional High School boys’ basketball team wrapped up its first ever state tourney berth with Thursday night’s thrilling 44-41 victory over Nicholas County in the Class AA Region 4 co-championship game at a packed Danny Godby Gymnasium.
A standing-only room crowd was on hand at the game and they were treated to one heck of a battle.
It’s been the talk of the town for two days.
If you are a Tigers’ fan it’s been hard to wipe away your smile.
Chapmanville won in dramatic fashion as 6-foot junior guard Josh Butcher dribbled across court and fired up a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
With a hand in his face, Butcher drained the 3-pointer with two seconds left to a deafening roar of the crowd.
Chapmanville led by three and the Grizzlies inbounded the ball but time ran out and the Tigers wrapped up their first ever state tournament berth.
The Tigers (20-5), ranked No. 9 in the state, drew the No. 6 seed for the state tournament and are scheduled to play No. 3 seed and defending state champion Bluefield (22-2) this coming Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in one of the four Class AA state tourney quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center.
It was a quest for the Tigers since the beginning of head coach Allan Hatcher’s hiring last season.
Last year, Hatcher led Chapmanville to a 14-10 mark but the Tigers lost to Tolsia in the sectional tourney.
This year mark the culmination of nearly two seasons of hard work by Hatcher, his coaching staff and his players.
Hatcher knows how to get teams to the state tourney.
He already has a West Virginia state championship from his days with the Williamson High School Wolfpack. He also has led three Kentucky team’s to the Bluegrass State’s Sweet Sixteen, the most recently Perry Central two years ago.
This will be Coach Hathcer’s 14th appearance in a state tournament in the two states with five different schools.
“I’m ready to go to Charleston!” Hatcher exclaimed after the game in the locker room. “It feels great and I’m really happy for Chapmanville Regional High School and I’m really happy for the people of the community of Chapmanville. You saw some support tonight. What a homecourt advantage that we had. We didn’t play that well but we found a way to win the game.”
Butcher had 14 points for the Tigers. Kenny Plumley led Chapmanville with a 17-point effort.
“It feels great to go to the state tournament. I’m proud of the team,” Butcher said. “We came together and we bonded together at the best time possible.”
Butcher said the Chapmanville players had a goal of reaching the state tourney from Day One of practice back in November.
After last season’s disappointments, the Tigers vowed to be back.
They sure did.
Chapmanville started off the roundball campaign with a 9-1 record — the only loss coming to Butcher’s old Riverside team.
The hot start raised some eyebrows.
Would this be the team that finally is going to make it to the state tournament?
The Tigers answered that question on Thursday night.
“From Day One, coach stressed to us that if we were the tougher team or we had the stronger people that we would be able to make it to the state tournament. By golly, was he right!” Butcher said.
Chapmanville last made it to the regional championship game in 2010 when the Tigers lost 63-53 to Sissonville at Riverside High School in the Charleston area.
It was the eighth time the Tigers had lost in a regional final since 1999.
Chapmanville had been defeated five straight years by Tug Valley from 1999-2003 and also dropped a pair of regional title games to Logan in the 2000s.
It seemed as if Chapmanville would never make it to the boys’ state basketball tournament.
The Chapmanville girls have made it, but would the boys ever do it?
Plumley said the 2010 loss to Sissonville served as a motivating factor to all of the young Chapmanville area basketball players.
“This is everything that we have worked for all year. Us seniors have been working for this for four years,” Plumley said. “Myself and Jonathan (Williamson) made a promise that when we went over to Riverside to watch Chapmanville play Sissonville in 2010 we would some day be going to Charleston. It feels really special to make history like we did.”
Chapmanville is scheduled to play next Wednesday against Bluefield in the state tourney.
Also on Thursday night, the 24-1 and No. 2-ranked Poca Dots punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 64-22 rout over the Scott Skyhawks in the other Region 4 championship game.
Also advancing to the state tourney on Thursday were: Fairmont Senior, East Fairmont, Robert C. Byrd, Bridgeport, Bluefield and Westside.
Fairmont Senior beat Ravenswood 40-38 in its regional final while East Fairmont moved on with a narrow 70-68 victory over Roane County.
RCB prevailed 88-56 over Frankfort and the Bridgeport Indians advanced to state with a 58-55 victory over the Keyser Golden Tornado.
Bluefield won 77-67 over Wyoming East to move on, while the Westside Renegades advanced to the state tournament after downing Pikeview 57-47.
Chapmanville, ironically, has already played on the Civic Center floor this season. The Tigers won 72-43 over North Marion on Dec. 21 in the Big 10-Cardinal Conference Challenge as part of the annual Hoops Classic.
— Turn to sports on Page B1 for more on the Chapmanville Tigers’ historic run to the state tournament.