No. 3 seed Shady Spring wasn’t about to let a group of mostly new Huskies get any time or space to breathe in the Class AAA boys basketball state tournament quarterfinals.
The Tigers blitzed No. 6 Herbert Hoover, which was forced to play without two starters and with a lineup comprised largely of junior varsity players due to contact tracing, burying the Huskies under a pile of turnovers and 3-pointers en route to a 87-45 win Wednesday morning at the Charleston Coliseum.
With the tournament win, the first in program history for Shady Spring, the Tigers set up a semifinal date with No. 7 Winfield at 11:15 a.m. Friday. The Generals upset No. 2 Fairmont Senior 49-45 Wednesday afternoon.
While the Huskies may have been shorthanded, Shady Spring wasn’t about to approach the contest that way. To Tigers coach Ronnie Olson, that was one of the keys to his team’s success.
“We didn’t care who we played or what we had left,” Olson said. “I think a couple of more [Hoover] kids played than we assumed. But we just wanted the first [state tournament] win in school history.
“We worked too hard to get here for anybody to discredit what we did or what we had, and as a team, as a group, we took that personal. We’ve worked too hard over the years to build this program. It could’ve happened to any program, we hate that for Hoover. We’ve dealt with that ourselves. But I’m just proud of these guys.”
Hoover wore warm-up shirts with the jersey numbers of the missing players on the back. The team was missing a couple of starters, including first-team All-Kanawha Valley selection Devin Hatfield (20.3 points per game) due to exposure stemming from the Huskies’ regional co-final win over Westside.
While Shady (13-2) may have been sympathetic, it wasn’t about to let the Huskies find their footing and confidence on the Charleston Coliseum floor, using a full-court press and a 20-2 run across the first and second quarters to claim a 20-point lead. From there, Shady was on cruise control.
The damage was done early as the Tigers forced 14 first-half turnovers while committing just one, turning those Hoover miscues into 16 points. Shady went 9 for 18 from the 3-point line in the opening 16 minutes, led by Todd Duncan, who hit 5 of 10. Duncan finished with 22 points, with 19 of those coming in the first half.
For good measure, Shady dished out 14 assists, outscored Hoover 14-2 in second-chance points and built an 18-6 advantage in the paint. By the time halftime mercilessly arrived for the Huskies, the Tigers had built a 50-16 lead.
While the Charleston Coliseum can wreak havoc on shooting numbers, Shady seemed largely unfazed, shooting 47.1% (33 for 70) for the game, and that included a mark of 4 for 15 in the fourth quarter, when reserves were mostly playing. Duncan credited the spacious confines of the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center for helping him and his teammates prepare.
“The Armory gives you almost the same exact look,” Duncan said. “We play a lot of games there and my teammates found me early, so once I saw the first one fall I kind of just went from there.”
The Tigers narrowly missed several Class AAA state tournament records. Duncan finished with eight steals, one short of the record of nine set by South Charleston’s Pierria’ Henry in 2009. The Tigers’ 12 made 3-pointers was one off the record of 13 set by Huntington in 2007.
Cole Chapman notched a double-double for Shady Spring with 14 points and 12 assists, tying the Class AAA mark set by Huntington’s OJ Mayo in 2007.
Braden Chapman and Cameron Manns each had 13 points for the Tigers, with Jaedan Holstein just missing a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Duncan contributed eight steals to the cause.
As for the Huskies (13-4), it was a bit of a bitter ending, especially for five seniors that helped push Hoover back to the state tournament for just the second time since 1963.
Eli Robertson entered as Hoover’s de facto leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and notched 13 to lead the Huskies on Wednesday. Hoover finished just 1 for 19 from 3-point distance.
“We knew coming in we’d be not having a lot of players, and I feel for my guys who couldn’t be here,” Hoover coach Josh Stricker said. “Shady did a very good job today of executing their offense. They made shots and we didn’t.
“Even though we didn’t have our same chemistry in the lineup, I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. They showed a lot of class, they showed a lot of character out there today — they grew up on the court today.
“No one in the state thought they could come out here and win, but they just said, ‘We’re going to go out, play our hardest and give it the best shot for us to win,’ and I couldn’t be more proud.”