By Dave Morrison
At some point things are going to get harder for the Shady Spring Tigers basketball team.
So far it’s been smooth sailing as the Tigers have cruised into the Class AAA Region 3 co-final on the strength of a 32-point win against PikeView (70-38) and then a 35-point win against Westside (85-50) in the Section 1 tournament at the Armory.
It’s now tasked to Nicholas County to find a way to derail the Tigers when they meet Tuesday night at Shady Spring at 7 p.m. A trip to next week’s state tournament on the line.
The problem for Grizzlies coach Brian Phipps is what poison to pick.
Do you try and stop the team’s talented twin forces in Braden and Cole Chapman with some type of junk defense? Do you attempt tp play the Tigers straight and hope for the best?
Teams have done a little of both. Early on the Chapman’s, Braden specifically, got hot. Braden had three straight games of over 30 points – 32 against Poca, when he outscored Virginia commit Isaac McKneely, 33 against Wyoming East and 37 against Westside. He set a personnel best in three straight games and it finished a streak of five straight 20-plus games.
Enter the junk defenses and Braden has not scored more than 14 since. And if you ask him or Cole, both of whom are try throwback players in style they play, that is just fine.
“We’re all scoring well,” Braden Chapman said. “We (he and Cole) might not get all the points but we are winning so it doesn’t really matter to us what goes on. When (opponents) try to key on us we can’t force anything so we have to get everybody involved. And we are succeeding in that.”
Braden is still averaging 18.1 points per game, with 33 3s and he is shooting 79 percent from the free throw line (34-43).
Cole Chapman started the season with two 20-point games after a 14-point opener against Woodrow Wilson (Shady Spring beat the Class AAAA Region 3 co-finalist 63-59) and he had five double-figure games in the first six. Since he has four in seven.
“We don’t care who takes the shots,” Cole Chapman said. “We can be balanced as we showed (against Westside, when four players reached double figures). Any of us can get buckets in any game, it doesn’t really matter (who scores).
Cole is averaging 12.9 points with 19 3s and he is shooting 72.9 percent from the free throw line (27-37).
Yes whatever opponents are doing is working in that regard. But is it really working. The Tigers are still winning games by double figures and they seemed to be hitting a peak in the Section tournament
As the production of the Chapman’s has decreased – which really on refers to scoring because of everything else they do, including steals and deflections – the production of other Tigers has increased.
Sophomore big man, 6-foot-6 Jaeden Holstein has had his first three double-figure games (10 against PikeView in a regular-season meeting, 13 against Raleigh County rival Independence and 14 in the sectional win against PikeView). He has raised his average from 3.0 to 6.0 points per game.
Cam Manns has really gotten hot lately. The sophomore, also the quarterback on the football team, has had four straight double figure outings He is averaging 9.5 points per game
Freshman Ammar Maxwell has double figure games in both of his section tournament games, a game-high 15 against PikeView) and has hiked his average to a season-best 5.2 points per game.
Todd Duncan has been consistent all season, but really came to the fore in the sectional championship game with 30 points and eight 3 pointers. Those are varsity career highs.
Shady is averaging 69 points per game, a couple ticks below what it typically averages and the Tigers, always one of the areas top shooting teams under Olson, are averaging 9.6 3s and is shooting 71.3 from the free throw line as a team.
And then there is the Shady defense, which can’t be quantified in numbers alone. If the Chapman’s defense is going down in points, they are getting the last laugh on the other end, They headed a defense against PikeView that had 30 turnovers.
Every team they play one of three players – typically Cole, but also Braden or Todd Duncan – will guard the opponents player. And time and time again the player scores below their average.
It is, coach Ronnie Olson said, a challenge.
“It’s disrespectful to us, our program and what we stand for if one player can come out and completely dominate us,” Olson said. “We talk about it in practice, we talk about it before games, we talk about it during games; one player is not going to come out and beat us. I refuse to let that happen and the kids, they mirror that. We take that challenge and we take it personally.”
Nicholas has had a down season, at 3-10, but the Grizzlies have some talent on their roster with four players averaging double figures,
Rylee Nicholas averages a team-bests scoring (16.2 points) and rebounds (6.2). D.J. Coomes averages 14.2, Colby Pishner 11.8 and Ryan Kenner (10.4).
The Grizzlies have won 2 of its last 3, the loss coming to Herbert Hoover in the section championship game.
On the other side Hoover is hosting Westside. The Huskies went to Westside and came away with a 60-51 victory but the Renegades were without Daniel Reed in that game.
Ethan Blackburn, who is one of the players who reached his average (21.1) when he had 22 of the Renegades’ 50 in the section championship game. Blackburn has a team-high 39 3s.
The Renegades are 9-6, and average 66.1 points.
Evan Colucci is averaging 12.4 ppg and he has 36 3s and Reed is averaging 10.2 ppg.