Central Boys Fall In State Title Rematch
Shady Spring Uses 14-0 Run to Pull Away
By CODY NESPOR
CHARLESTON — A rematch of last year’s Class AAA title game ended with the same result Friday night as Shady Spring defeated Wheeling Central 59-49 in a WVSSAC semifinal match inside the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.
After falling to the Tigers 55-43 in last year’s title game, Central was looking forward to taking Shady Spring on again, with another trip to the championship on the line.
“Anytime you lose, especially in the state championship game, you’re going to remember that one,” said senior leader Ryan Reasbeck. “I think ever since last (year) we’ve been working at it to get a second chance. (Friday) we had that second chance, but we just fell a little bit short.”
Suffocating ball pressure by Shady Spring lifted the No. 1 Tigers past a slow start and kept Central’s usually-explosive offense in check throughout the contest.
“They’re so good in the half-court defensively and they push you so far out that they make it so tough on you,” said Central coach Mel Stephens. “Even though we executed and did what we wanted on the defensive end, we still struggled on the offensive end.”
The Maroon Knights held Shady to just 3-16 shooting in the first quarter and held a 9-7 advantage, but the Tigers turned up the heat defensively and gave Central serious trouble.
The Knights scored seven points in the first four minutes of the game, but only seven more in the next 12 before halftime. Shady Spring held Central scoreless for more than six minutes in the second quarter, going on a 14-0 scoring run and grabbing a 25-14 lead at the break.
“That momentum’s real in basketball and you can feel it,” said Shady coach Ronnie Olson. “We feed off that, it was like an avalanche. We didn’t need to do anything special in the second half, we just needed to keep doing what we were doing.”
In the first half, Central had as many turnovers as they did field goal attempts (15). Those turnovers turned into 12 points for the Tigers, which was what allowed them to pull ahead.
“If you allow them to run good sets, they’re going to pick you apart,” Olson said. “Our game plan was to not allow them to run those sets. It’s not easy, but those guys sat down on defense. They did a great job on the ball and (Central) couldn’t run their sets. That was the difference in the game.”
The Maroon Knights only committed three turnovers after halftime, but by then the damage was done and it was all they could do to keep up with the Tigers throughout the rest of the game.
Central got within seven points multiple times throughout the second half, but it seemed like the Tigers always had a response ready.
“We’re down 11 at half and that’s tough against them,” Stephens said. “It seemed like every time we made a big bucket in the third quarter, they came right back and answered with a big one.
“They just make it so tough for you to score. A 10-point lead feels like it’s 18 or 20 against them. I felt we still had a chance when we cut it to seven. We just needed to get a couple of stops and get a couple of buckets.”
The Chapman twins took turns powering Shady throughout the game. Braden Chapman scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half while Cole Chapman poured in 14 of his 18 in the second.
Overall, Shady held advantages in points off turnovers (16-10), second-chance points (13-6), fast-break points (14-5) and points in the paint (32-24).
“The areas we talked about that we really had to be good at (Friday) were transition defense, defensive rebounding and taking care of the basketball,” Stephens said. “They had a ton of points off turnovers, they had a ton of points in transition and they had a ton of points in the paint.”
Reasbeck led the Maroon Knights with 18 points, followed by classmate Caleb Ratcliffe with 12. Fellow senior Michael Toepfer was held scoreless but pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
“You have to have that senior leadership, you have to have those guys who come back,” Stephens said. “For us, we’ve been fortunate enough that these guys have been able to get that experience (at the state tournament). I can’t say enough about them and the leadership they’ve given us.”
“I’m just very lucky to be in the situation I’m in,” Reasbeck added. “Not a lot of people can make it down here, only eight teams do every year. Every year I’ve played, we’ve made it down here and that’s just a testimony to the types of guys we produce and the type of program we are.”
Sophomore Leyton Toepfer was third on the team with 11 points and classmate Quinton Burlenski finished with six.
“There’s no shame in losing to a very good team like Shady Spring,” Stephens said. “I’m proud of these guys’ effort the whole year to be able to get down here again. We just came up one game shorter this year than we did last year.”
Cameron Manns supported the Chapman twins with nine points while Ammar Maxwell and Jaeden Holstein both had four.
Shady Spring will try to repeat as Class AAA state champions against No. 3 Fairmont Senior today at 5:30 p.m.