By Dave Morrison

It wasn’t necessarily the marquee players who took the center stage Friday in Class AAA No. 3 Shady Spring’s 63-59 victory against Class AAAA No. 5 Woodrow Wilson at the Armory.

No that players like Woodrow Wilson’s Ben Gilliam, one of the state’s top big men, did not have big games. He did with 17 points and 26 rebounds. I’ve covered a lot of Woodrow basketball since 1997, and I can’t remember a board like that.

Yet there was Westside transfer stepping up with six 3s for the Flying Eagles.

And super sophomores Braden and Cole Chapman combined for 24 points.

But Todd Duncan had a career-high 22 points and six 3s, Cam Manns canned 14 (four 3s) and Jaedan Holstein was an enforcer inside on defense.

Here are my takeaways from the game.

It only seemed like Woodrow Wilson’s Gilliam gobbled up every rebound in the second half and overtime.

Woodrow Wilson’s Ben Gilliam

Not that the 6-foot-6 senior didn’t try.

On the night, Gilliam showed one of the reasons some consider him the best big man in the state, with 26 rebounds. He added 17 points for yet another double-double. 

With 20 defensive rebounds, he helped limit Shady’s offensive opportunities but the problem for Woodrow Wilson was its inability to get the ball to Gilliam.

Gilliam only got nine attempts in the game, making six. The nine attempts were the fewest among the Flying Eagles starters despite the fact that he played all but 43 seconds of the game’s 36 minutes.

That was the blueprint for Shady, which registered only its second win over perennial power Woodrow Wilson, the first coming last year.

“That was our game plan,” Shady Spring coach Ronnie Olson said. “The kids bought in. We worked on it for three days. We were going to take Ben away. He might have had 26 rebounds, but to hold him to what, 17 points, I, fine with that. We were going to let (Woodrow’s) supporting cast beat us. And of they beat us, so be it.”

Shady Spring’s Jaedan Holstein

The Tigers did the job, with sophomores Jaedan Holstein (who had six blocked shots) and sophomore Cole Chapman denying Gilliam the ball in the interior.

“The plan was to deny him getting the ball,” the 6-foot-6 Holstein said. “He is bigger than me, obviously (by about 80 pounds) but I’m faster and more lengthy than him. Our plan was to not let him get the ball inside at all. Minimize him getting the ball at all, box him out, try not to let him get boards, putbacks or anything like that.”

It worked.

Gilliam didn’t get the ball until three minutes in the game and only had four points at the half.

At the end of the day, over half of Woodrow Wilson’s shots were 3s (33 o 64) and the Flying Eagles made just eight of those (24.2).

It’s not a secret. Woodrow has to do more in the paint and Gilliam, one of the state’s premier bigs, has to touch the ball more than nine times for the team to be successful.

Woodrow Wilson’s Jace Colucci

Woodrow Wilson senior Jace Colucci was huge in his first game for the Flying Eagles, after transferring over from Westside. Colucci made six 3 pointers, after having just eight all of the last year, and 16 in his career.

He knows the plan for success for the Flying Eagles is to have success inside.

“He’s a beast, best big man in the state,” Colucci said when hearing Gilliam’s rebound total. “They crowded the paint to make it harder for us,” Colucci said. “So we couldn’t get to the basket and we had to settle mor for jumpers. Any time we got the ball to Ben they were double teaming him or triple teaming him. By the end of the season I feel like we are going to be an all-around team. I feel like we are going to be a team that can shoot, go to the bucket, drive the paint and make a pass and get those baskets.”

Gilliam, who is getting solid looks from Division 2 schools, also rattled home a 3 for Woodrow in the game, flashing his ability from the top top of the key.

Dwayne Richardson, a 6-foot junior did a good job for the Flying Eagles, with 11 points and four assists. He showed the ability to get to the basket, and ended the day making 5 of 10 shots.

Talented freshman Elijah Redfern did not dress in the game for the Flying Eagles.

Colucci and Gilliam are Woodrow Wilson’s only seniors.

It’s hard to fathom exactly how young this Shady team is as well.

Shady Spring’s Todd Duncan

Todd Duncan was the only senior to play, the other six players who saw the court were sophomores or freshmen.

But the 6-1 Duncan was the offensive star for the Tigers with 22 points, including six 3 pointers. He was the only player on the floor with a Division 1 scholarship. The two-time West Virginia AA golf champion will golf at West Virginia University beginning this fall.

But for now he showed that Shady Spring is still a force with which to be reckoned from beyond the arc.

And where Duncan is concerned, from almost anywhere from 30 feet in. His bank 3 from about 27 feet with just under two minutes remaining in overtime, gave Shady the lead, 58-57. It was a lead they would not lose.

“I came down the court and I saw no one was picking me up,” Duncan said. “I knew I needed to shoot it. It was the most open shot I’ve had all game. I shot it and luckily I made it and we kind of took it from there.”

Understand that Duncan is a player who didn’t get a lot of varsity run last year, although he did have 21 3s last season.

Many of his 3s were 25 feet or more.

Olson said he had no problem with any of them.

“People can sit up in the stands and say it’s a bad shot,” Olson said. “But I’ve seen him do that for three years in JV and then against the No. 1 team in the state last year (in practice against graduated standouts) with Luke (LeRose) and Tommy (Williams).  He’s done it consistently and he’s proved to me he can take and make those shots. consistently. Not a lot of kids can do it, but your talking 25 feet and beyond, I have no problem with him taking those shots.”

Shady Spring’s Cam Manns

Another huge contributor was 6-4 sophomore Cam Manns. The son of former Woodrow Wilson standout Nate Manns, who went on to play football at Marshall, Manns played in one game last year, the section opener, and did not score.

He didn’t waste time getting on the board this year, coming off the bench with a 3 for his first varsity points. He had three more 3s, including a game-tying 3 in overtime (making it 55-55) and had 14 points.

How good was Shady. Sophomore twins Braden and Cole Chapman, both among the top 2023s in the state, combined for 24 points in the game (Cole 14, Braden 10) and they Tigers still got the win.

Super Dave superlatives:

What an opener for Liberty’s A.J. Williams, who had 41 points in the Raiders 92-41 victory over Van. And the 6-3 junior did not play in the fourth quarter.

Greenbrier West’s Kaiden Pack finished with a career-high 38 in a tough 75-73 loss to Tug Valley.

PikeView’s Kobey Taylor-Williams had 25 points and 13 rebounds in PikeView’s 68-63 victory against Oak Hill.

Sammy Crist of Oak Hill set a career-high in that game with 21 points.