CHAPMANVILLE — In many ways, it’s been a rebuilding year for the youthful Chapmanville Regioinal High School basketball team.
A year removed from last season’s 22-2 mark, the No. 1 state ranking and in position to win a third straight state championship with its “Big Three” of super seniors Obinna Killen, Andrew Shull and Philip Mullins, many did not expect much from the 2021 Tigers.
But yet, here they are.
Back in the state tournament.
Chapmanville wrapped up its fifth straight trip to the state tourney with Thursday night’s 53-40 win at home over Wyoming East in the Class AA Region 3 co-finals, taking the rubber match with the Warriors.
The No. 10-ranked Tigers improved to 8-6 with the win and are set to open up state tournament play on Tuesday, May 4 at 11:15 a.m., against Clay County (12-3). Chapmanville notched the fifth seed, while Clay County is fourth.
Since the 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state tourney was never played, Chapmanville enters the state tournament as the two-time defending Class AA state champions with its 2018 and 2019 state titles under their belts.
Chapmanville took a first-round exit in 2016 and were state runners-up in 2017.
Coupled with its first-ever state tourney berth in 2014 under former head coach Allan Hatcher, the Tigers have reached the state tournament in six out of the last seven years, not counting the unfinished 2020 campaign.
CRHS sixth-year coach Brad Napier said it feels good to be back.
For a team which returned just two starters in sophomores Brody Dalton and Isaiah Smith and also featuring a starting five that includes freshmen Zion Blevins and a third sophomore in Devon Workman, some thought a return trip to Charleston was probably a year away at best.
They were wrong.
“This was our goal all year. To make it back to the state tournament,” Napier said. “I’m really proud of this group. Tonight was the night. I told them before the game that we were going to put four quarters together and if we make some mistakes it doesn’t matter because we are going to keep on playing and we are going to keep our intensity up for four quarters. I thought that we did that. We were intense the whole game.’
Much of that intensity happened on the defensive end as the Tigers put the heat on East (8-7), which shot poorly all night long and was at times rattled by the pressure.
Chapmanville led just 32-27 after three quarters and the game was still in the balance.
The Tigers then went on a 11-2 fourth quarter fun to start off the fourth, grabbing a 43-31 lead and watching the Warriors unravel.
“Our defense really really opened up the game for us especially in the second half,” Napier said. “I think our pressure got to them. I thought they handled our pressure pretty well in the first half but it wore on them. We were trying to wear them down and pressure them the whole game. We have some depth. We played 10 guys tonight and they were all effective when they were out there. We were able to rotate guys and keep them fresh and pressure them up a lot.”
Dalton led CRHS with a 20-point effort. Smith tallied 10, while Blevins had eight and Workman six. Hunter Jeffrey netted four, Isaiah Fleming three and Colton Craddock two.
Chase York paced Wyoming East with a game-high 21 points.
Blevins got the fourth quarter run going with a 12-foot baseline jumper.
Later on, Dalton completed a three-point play, giving the Tigers a 39-31 cushion with 5:01 left in the game.
Smith followed with a corner 3 and Workman added a free throw, giving CRHS the 43-31 lead with 3:12 left.
With 2:05 left, East’s Tanner Whitten missed a break-away one-handed jam as the ball clanged off the back iron.
That summed up the Warriors’ evening.
Wyoming East had led 9-6 early in the first quarter but fell behind 12-9 after one.
The game remained close.
Jeffrey’s 16-foot baseline shot with eight seconds had given the Tigers a 21-19 halftime lead.
The teams had split during the regular season with Chapmanville winning 36-35 at home and later falling 42-39 at New Richmond.
ALL GASHED UP: Chapmanville’s Smith received a nasty gash on his head during the first quarter of Thursday’s game but returned later, donning a white wrap.
Smith joked about it on Twitter.
“Gashed head open in the first quarter, wrapped it up and played looking like a zombie,” Smith said in a Tweet. “Getting stitched up, but got that regional championship and now state bound! Taking it one game at a time. We’re young but we’re coming with everything.”
Added Napier: “He is a warrior. He had to get stitches today (Friday).”
Wyoming East 9 10 8 13 — 40: York 21, Whitten 8, Johnson 6, Mitchell 5.
Chapmanville 12 9 11 21 — 53: Dalton 20, Smith 10, Blevins 8, Workman 6, Jeffrey 4, Fleming 3, Craddock 2.