CHARLESTON — The nets had just been cut down at the Charleston Coliseum.
The state championship picture had just been taken.
And some were already looking ahead to next season.
Can the Man Hillbillies repeat as Class A state champions in 2022?
Four seniors will be lost due to graduation, including 5-foot-9 point guard Peyton Adams (10.7 ppg), 6-4 starter Ryan Cozart (7.5) and reserves Christian Toler (6.2) and Hunter Anderson (3.2).
But with leading scorer and 6-7 junior center Austin Ball (19.5) coming back, along with 6-4 junior Caleb Blevins (15.1), 6-5 junior Jeremiah Harless (4.9), 6-2 junior Jackson Tackett (9.5) and a host of others, the Billies could be a major factor again next season in Single-A ball.
Man coach T.J. Blevins said his team will not rest and will be working hard for the upcoming 2021-22 now that the Billies have gone from the hunter to the hunted.
“I’ve got a good sophomore who is coming up,” Blevins said. “He’s on the JV team now and he’ll be filling that role. He’s going to have to start getting after it for next season. Usually you have six to eight months off. Now it’s four to five.”
Man closed out a 16-2 season and a 3-0 showing in the state tourney with Saturday morning’s 43-36 win over previously undefeated Pendleton County in the Class A state finals.
Ball said the Billies could be back in Charleston.
“Yeah, I think that we can do it,” he said.
Caleb Blevins said the Billies can repeat as champs.
“We lost Peyton, Ryan and four seniors total,” he said. “But I think that we can go back-to-back. I think that we’ll be back here next year.”
“I think that we’ve got a very good chance to come back,” he said.
Cozart will be graduating but wished next year’s Billies all the luck.
“This is it for me since I’m a senior but I think they can do it again next year,” he said. “I love it. It’s a great way to go out.”
Harless said Man has a shot to make it back.
“We have a great chance to be back,” he said. “But we have a huge target on our backs now. We already had a big target on our backs this year but it will be an even bigger one next year.
Coach Blevins thanked his four seniors. Adams was one of the four Man players to make it to the All-Tournament team.
“Ryan Cozart is the absolute smartest guy that we have out there on our basketball team,” Blevins said. “Christian Toler is a senior who absolutely can shoot the eyes out of it. We also had Hunter Anderson and I’m going to miss him a lot. He’s a team player and he’s the kind of guy you want on your team. He says nothing but loves the team and the guys. I’m probably more happy for him to get one more than anybody.”
IN THE CLUTCH: Peyton Adams was one of the stars in the championship game, hitting 5 of 6 free throws to put Man ahead of Pendleton County in the closing minute and a half. The Billies had been down by four points.
“He’s a good shooter. He says I’m the best shooter in the state put I’d put him right there,” Caleb Blevins said. “He came in and hit the biggest free throws of his life. I saw him praying. God was with us.”
Adams has been invited to play in the Scott Brown Classic this Sunday in Beckley.
The annual post-season all-star game brings together the top senior players from across the state.
MAN JOINS THE FOLD: With Man’s Class A state championship on Saturday all three Logan County schools have now won state titles in basketball, bringing the total to 10 crowns.
Logan High School has won seven state titles in 1964, 1977, 1978, 1983, 1991, 2005 and 2010.
Chapmanville Regional High School has its two recent state titles in 2018 and 2019.
ON THE BALL: Austin Ball turned in a fantastic state tournament, averaging 24 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Ball shot 53.3% from the floor and 88.9% from the foul line.
NBA’S LAMB SENDS CONGRATS: The NBA’s Jeremy Lamb of the Indiana Pacers sent out a congratulatory message to the state champion Man Hillbillies via video.
Lamb, who hails from Henrico, Virginia, says he’s been to the Town of Man.
“That’s crazy. Man High Hillbillies? If ya’ll don’t believe me, I’ve been there,” Lamb said. “Congrats. Do you know how hard it is to win a state championship? Oh, my goodness. That’s crazy. I’m so proud of ya’ll and happy for you all. Cheers.”
GETTING THE SEASON IN: Man, and all basketball teams across the state of West Virginia, were glad to get the abbreviated 2021 season in.
After two delays due to COVID-19 concerns, the season started at the beginning of March.
Man had completed the previous 2019-20 campaign and were coming off an 18-6 season.
“It was iffy about having one,” Coach Blevins said about the season. “But you saw things slowly come back a little bit. I had told my principal when we left that I would see her on Saturday. She said, ‘I’m going to take you up on that.’ So we were in a timeout and I hear someone hollering, ‘TJ, TJ.’ And she was telling us, ‘Just shoot the ball. Just shoot it.’ She’s competitive too.”
DEFENSE, DEFENSE: Man’s high scoring offense seemed to get all the headlines this season but it was its defense which helped propel the Billies to the state championship.
In its three state tournament games, Man allowed just 34, 54 and 36 points.
“You hear all about the kids need to buy in,” Coach Blevins said. “I’m a firm believer in that because we focused on our defense this season to buy in and they bought in.”
THE POLLS WERE RIGHT: Man started off the season as the Class A No. 1-ranked team in the state and the pollsters were right.
The Billies slipped briefly to No. 2 and rival Tug Valley went to No. 1, but after an 85-56 blowout win at home over the Panthers, Man retook the top spot.
Tug would go on to beat Man 53-50 in the sectional finals at Logan but were ousted from the state semifinals.
Coach Blevins also helped his staff, who were instrumental in Man’s success.
Assistant Coach Bill Lusk is in his 11th year, while T.J. Hoosier is in his second year on the staff.
“Coach Lusk, it seems like he’s been around here for 100 years,” Blevins said. “Give him credit. Coach Hoosier came in too and helps us set up some of our offensive sets.”