By Dave Morrison
When the Class AAA Region 3, Section 1 tournament begins at 5 p.m. Monday it will do so with some of the areas most potent scorers.
Top seed Shady Spring (9-2) starts things off taking on fourth-seed PikeView (5-11) and No. 2 seed Westside (8-5) will take on No. 3 seed Independence (5-6) at 7:30 p.m.
Both games are at the Beckley Raleigh County Convention Center.
Every team has a prolific dynamic duo, and every team has a cast of potent players behind them.
Two of the areas premier players have been sophomore twin terrors – offensively and defensively – Braden and Cole Chapman. Westside has savvy veteran seniors Ethan Blackburn and Daniel Reed. Independence has a tenacious trio of scorers in Michael McKinney, Cyrus Goodson and Zach Bolen. And PikeView has a prosperous pair in Dylan Blake and Kobey Taylor-Williams.
The sections youngest team has been its best, as Shady Spring has reloaded from a team that lost two first-team all-staters a year ago into a team that was still No. 3 in the last state poll.
Braden Chapman averaged 19.6 points per game and Cole Chapman 13.5 and you really have to throw Todd Duncan in there to make it a Big Three because the team’s lone senior is averaging 13.1 points per game with 33 3s.
But if you want to know the secret to Shady’s success, look no further than the Tigers top-notch defense.
Defense has been coach Ronnie Olson’s calling card since arriving at Shady Spring five years ago. He came in talking defense and he has not stopped as the Tigers have morphed into one of the area’s top programs.
He takes giving up points as a personal affront and he expects his team to do the same.
In 11 games the Tigers gave up over 60 three times (77 to AAAA No. 1 Morgantown in a loss, 69 in a loss to Poca, the No 3 team on Class AA and 60 to Wyoming East in a 17-point win.
The Tigers are giving up 56.6 points per game.
In most of those 11 games the Tigers held the other teams top scorer in check. Blackburn had 14 against the Tigers, Blake had 15 and 10 in two games and Taylor Williams five and 10, Greenbrier East point producer extraordinaire William Gabbert, coming off a streak that saw him score 25, 29, 26, 20 and 34 points, had 13 in a game at the Armory and McKinney had 15 a week ago. All those are significantly below their season averages.
The two player largely responsible for that are Braden and Cole Chapman, who despite being high-profile offensive players, regularly ask to draw the other team’s top scorer.
Another key to this team might be the players you don’t hear about, the so-called role players.
These players are as young as the guys in the starting five. Sophomore Jaeden Holstein has really come on as the season progressed and he closed it out with a double-double against Independence last Monday, scoring a career-high 13 points with 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Cam Manns has done good work with five double figure games to his credit and freshman Ammar Maxwell has made a couple starts and has a couple of double figure games.
Westside’s Blackburn and PikeView’s Dylan Blake have been the most prolific scorers in the Section of late.
In his last six games Blackburn has averaged just over 26 points per game, with two 30-point plus games, including a career-best 34 against Tug Valley.
Blackburn is averaging 21.8 points per game this season.
Reed was injured (concussion) against PikeView early this season and the team struggled with him out, going 0-2, losing to region foes Herbert Hoover and Shady. He returned and the team, and Blackburn in particular, took off. Reed isn’t doing the scoring he has done in the past (10.1 ppg) but he is an outstanding floor general and is one of the fastest players in the area.
PikeView’s Blake, a 6-foot-2 junior, has been on a record setting zenith.
He is averaging 27.5 points over the last six. He set the school record for points in a game in back to back games, both against Nicholas County when he had 42 on March 31 and then 43 on April 6. He is averaging 21.4 points per game.
Taylor-Williams has been a mainstay at PikeView as a 1,000 point career scorer and a four-year starter. This season he is averaging 15.3 including a 36-point explosion in the Panthers landmark win over Princeton April 9.
Independence was playing well early, including a season-opening win over PikeView that proved to be big in the seeding. Then the Patriots had a 15-day Covid shutdown and the team fell upon hard times.
The Patriots would lose 5 of its next six, ending with a 99-78 loss to the team it will face Monday, Westside. Indy rebounded to win three of its final five.
Independence has its own version of a Big Three with McKinney, Bolen and Goodson.
McKinney, a North Carolina State baseball commit, averaged 19.9 points and had 41 3s in 12 games. It is interesting to note he is also 5 for 7 and has scored six runs in the Patriots (2-0) first week of the baseball season.
Cyrus Goodson is averaging 17.2 points and Bolen 14.8. Freshman Brady Green has also played well as he gets comfortable with the high school game in this up and down season. He had a career-high 19 in the Patriots win against Midland Trail last week.
Westside is averaging 68.5 points per game, Shady Spring and Independence 67.5 and PikeView 62.
A look at the teams in the Class AAA Region 3, Section 1 tournament which opens play Monday
By Dave Morrison