Gallery by Jen Lewis
Monday night at the ParMar Stores Shootout at the Big House, the Class AA boys division took center stage inside the Walker Convocation Center on the campus of W.Va. State University.
In a prelim to what many think will be a wild AA state tournament Top 10 teams Bluefield, Charleston Catholic, Wyoming East and Williamstown electrified the crowd in attendance.
On this night, Region 3 reigned supreme with Bluefield and Wyoming East notching big-time wins.
The Beavers dispatched Catholic 53-48 before the Warriors beat the ‘Jackets in a 47-44 last second thriller.
The first showdown pitted Top 5 titans Bluefield and Charleston Catholic with the Beavers taking command in the second half for a 53-48 win that only tightened in the final minute.
The Wariors backed that up the win by their sectional rival by stunning the No. 1-ranked Yellowjackets 47-44.
“We played very good defense and we knew we would have a very tough ballgame,” Bluefield head coach Buster Large said. “We are on a good run right now. We have won seven out of the last eight. We are happy to get this win.”
The Beavers held an 11-8 lead after one quarter before Jeff Reynolds ripped a 3-ball to open the second quarter.
Back-to-back scores from Zaden Ranson tied the game and when Gio Cinco hit a runner off glass, Charleton Catholic led 17-15 with 4:12 to play in the half.
The good fortune for the Irish turned sour however when it failed to score over the remainder of the half. Glen Keene’s 3-pointer and a stickback from R.J. Hairston gave Bluefield a 20-17 with two quarters to play.
The two teams traded buckets to open the third quarter before Bluefield made its move to separate the game.
A pair of Kam’Ron Gore free throws followed a score from Hairston built a 26-19 lead for Bluefield.
“We have been playing great defense, running good transition and we are really getting after it,” Large said.
With the Bluefield defense creating headaches for Charleston Catholic, Gore ripped a 3-ball for the first double-digit margin of the game.
During that stretch, the Irish could not find the range from behind the arc.
“I would have to look at the film to really tell because I am so into the game. I am so into the game that I am not fore sure if we took bad shots, but at the same time if we are down 15 we are going to have to hit some shots,” Charleston Catholic head coach Hunter Moles said. “We are going to have to take some shots that might not be the same shots as if it was a tie game. You have to take some and start going a little bit.”
The Irish battled back behind five straight points from Ranson, but a Keene 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play made a nine point game after three quarters.
The Beavers applied the knockout blow to open the final eight minutes of play.
A pair of scores from Hairston sandwiched around a run-out layup Gore pushed the to 15 points.
A layup from Gore with 2:34 to play gave the Beavers its biggest advantage of 16 points before a late barrage from Catholic trimmed the lead back inside double digits.
“We (hang) our hat on defense and rebounding. That is the easiest thing to do when you can’t hit a shot, make your defense your best offense. Get extra possessions and get offensive rebounds. You can’t turn it over,” Moles explained. “When you are not shooting well, you need as many shots as you can get. We turned it over too much. Credit to Bluefield, they are are a really good team. We knew that coming in.”
Gore ended the night with 20 points, while Hairston had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Keene added 10 big points for the Beavers.
In a titanic battle all night inside, Ranson also had a double-double, while Jayallen Turners scored 18, mostly late in the game.
“If you do any type of research, (you know) Bluefield always plays that hard. I am a big fan of R.J. Hairston,” Moles said. “I think Zaden matched up with him just fine. I love Zaden Ranson. He is so fun to coach. He had 14 points and 13 rebounds and I had to tell him we needed a little more. That is crazy, right? Crazy to think we needed more from him. He is only a sophomore and he is doing great. I think we matched up just fine, but credit where credit is due. R.J. is a good player and Bluefield is a good team.”
Wyoming East let it be known from the opening whistle that the boys from New Richmond came to Institute ready to play.
The Warriors jumped out to an 11-0 lead before Williamstown answered with eight straight to trail by three after one quarter.
“We are not used to starting fast. We usually start slow. That was big for us and you can see, we needed it,” Wyoming East head coach Derek Brooks said. “Once they got a bucket in, they got in their pressure and we turned the ball over a few times. It gave them easy buckets to get back in the game, but we held our composure well and played for 32 minutes.”
The Yellowjackets rallied to lead by two points midway through the second period before a layup from Konnor Fox and a triple from Cole Lambert lifted East to a 21-17 lead at the break.
A 3 from Parker Schramm at the 3:30 mark of the third quarter put Williamstown back in front briefly before a stickback from Braxton Morgan put the Warriors on top at 31-30.
Cole Lambert hit a jumper for a three point lead with 1:29 to play before he electrified the crowd with a 3-point bomb from outside the half-court line to beat the third quarter buzzer for a 36-30 lead.
As expected, the Yellowjackets made a run and tied the game at 42-apiece with 2:43 to play.
Lambert then answered for East before Schramm evened the game again for Williamstown with 2:01 to play.
A stop by Williamstown gave it a chance for the go-ahead score when Morgan came up with a huge defensive stop with 1:03 to play.
“I got back-screened. I didn’t see it coming,” Morgan said “I just had to bust my tail and get back. I jumped as high as I could.”
Morgan’s huge block was gathered up by Zach Hunt and was followed by a Wyoming East timeout.
“Braxton always plays great defense for us and he rebounds the ball extremely well. The kid jumps quite well, as you seen,” Brooks said. “
As expected, the ball was placed in the hands of Lambert who penetrated the lane as the clock ticked inside 25 seconds.
“Cole is our guy and they knew we were getting down hill with him,” Brooks said. “I talked about this with somebody today. If it comes down to it, we need a bucket and Cole has two on him, he is going to make the basketball play because he is a point guard.”
Morgan moved into position along the baseline and Lambert made the play Brooks predicted. Morgan knocked in a short jumper off glass for what became the game winner.
“I saw Cole driving and he created all of that,” Morgan said. “I just cut to the spot and finished the jump shot.”
Lambert ended the night with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Morgan scored 13 and Fox had nine. Schramm led the ‘Jackets with 23.
“We finally got some grit about us,” Brooks said. “We have been preaching and trying to get it out of these guys to go out and finish one. I thought we played with tenacity for 32 minutes to day, instead of 20-25. We came out with a big win. We needed a game like this.”