Gallery by Heather Belcher
White Sulphur Springs – Having opened the week with one win over a Class AAAA team, Class AA No. 8 Wyoming East was hoping to end the week on the same note.
The Warriors instead settled for a split.
Cabell Midland embarked on two separate runs to distance itself from East, beating the Warriors 68-49 Saturday in the boys championship game of the Battle for the Springhouse at The Greenbrier.
Having knocked off Class AA No. 2 Bluefield on Friday to advance to the title game, the Warriors took charge early, leading 4-3 after a bucket from Tanner Whitten. Unfortunately they had no answer for Jack Eastone.
The sharpshooting junior scored seven points in the first quarter, helping the Knights to 12-6 advantage after one.
“He does a lot of little things for us and tonight as you can see he can shoot as well,” Midland head coach J.J. Martin said. “He can shoot and score so he kind of made us go tonight.”
It didn’t get much better after that.
A 9-0 run to open the second quarter expanded the lead to 15, Whitten momentarily calmed the storm with a layup but Chandler Schmidt answered with a 3-pointer, one of four straight for the Knights. The final trey, courtesy of Eastone, put the Knights up 19.
A pair of Whitten free throws softened the blow but the Warriors still trailed by 17 heading into the break.
A quick 5-0 spurt to open the half kept their hopes alive, slashing the deficit to 12 but six straight from the Knights reestablished order. East never truly threatened again.
“I think for us it had to do with our ability to put pressure on them,” Martin said. “Our guys did a good job of that and went really hard when we were in our full-court press. They came out and scored the first five but we just stuck to our game plan. Those guys, I knew that if they just kept going hard we’d be able to get it done and that’s what I kept telling them.
“We have to go hard from start to finish and hats off to Wyoming East because they were in kind of the same situation last night and were able to win that game. We knew they weren’t just going to fold so coming out we had respect knowing they were going to go hard. Our guys just continuously ran the offense.”
For Wyoming East the slow start was unfortunately familiar. The Warriors were able to rally from a 15-point deficit against Bluefield on Friday but failed to recapture that magic on Saturday, leaving head coach Derek Brooks searching for more answers.
“We hung with them early but we’ve got to get where we’re playing hard basketball for 32 minutes,” Brooks said. “Those runs they go on in the first half keep killing us. We went down at one point yesterday 15 to Bluefield in the first half and cut it to 11 at halftime. But we’ve got to stop those runs and limit getting in the hole that deep early but that’s a good four-A team we played tonight. They’re physical, not big but strong kids and they shoot the ball well. I think every starter they had hit at least one three.
“We’ve got to get back in the lab and work on it. Our help-side defense wasn’t there tonight and we weren’t communicating. We should be able to do that especially here because this place isn’t that big. I think I heard one kid communicating and that was Bryson Huff – one of my guys off the bench. That’s big on defense. You have to communicate and help each other out.”
The week, undoubtedly the toughest on the Warriors’ schedule, yielded mixed results but showed they’re trending in the right direction. Despite double-digit losses to Midland and defending Class AAA champion Shady Spring, a road win at Beckley and a win on a neutral court against sectional foe Bluefield still present East with an opportunity to secure home-court advantage when sectionals start in three weeks.
“That’s kind of how we look at it going in,” Brooks said. “You never want to look at it like we’re going to get beat this game because we fight. We played to the final whistle yesterday but we have to get to the point where we’re doing it for 32 minutes, not 18, 19, 10 or 15. It’s 32 minutes and we have to play that way for 32 minutes but I’m proud of my guys. We had a fun weekend up here. We wanted to get two W’s and we got the first. That was a big one that had sectional implications with it. I’m glad we got that because we needed that one.”
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WE: 6 10 15 18 – 49
CM: 12 21 14 21 – 68
Tucker Cook 2, Chandler Johnson 4, Tanner Whitten 20, Garrett Mitchell 12, Logan Brant 3, Jacob Howard 6, Zach Hunt 2
Jack Easton 23, Dominic Schmidt 12, Chandler Schmidt 15, Jackson Fetty 5, Cooper Gibson 2, Tevin Taylor 7, Logan Gillispie 2, Ethan Blackburn 2
3-point goals – WE: 3 (Mitchell 2, Brant 1); CM: 9 (Eastone 5, D. Schmidt 1, C. Schmidt 1, Fetty 1, Taylor 1).