By Dave Morrison
With the game on the line, all Greenbrier West’s Kaiden Pack wanted was the ball in his hands
With his senior season in the balance, he got what he wanted.
Greenbrier West is happy he did.
To set the stage, 4.4 seconds remained in the Region 3 co-final at Lindside, pitting the Region’s top-seed Mavericks against the Cavaliers. James Monroe was holding on to a 48-45 lead.
The Cavaliers were largely in his position because Pack had scored 14 second half points, one less than the Cavs scored in the first half combined. That included a bank 3 that helped the Cavs remain in it and set the stage for the final 10.3 seconds of regulation.
With two fouls to give, James Monroe fouled the Cavs with 4.4 seconds remaining and a timeout was called.
Pack inbounded the ball to Lawson Vaughan who immediately gave the ball back to Pack. The senior cut across the Mavs’ logo and dribbled to the left wing where he arched what looked like an off-balance 3 over the outstretched hands of a leaping defender, Josh Burks.
Time stood still momentarily before the ball swished through the net sending the game into overtime.
He, Vaughan and Brandon Oscar combined for 15 of the team’s 16 overtime points as the Cavaliers pulled off the victory, and advanced to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons. The Cavaliers open the new five-day tournament format on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. when No. 6 Greenbrier West meets undefeated and No. 3 seed Pendleton County.
“To be honest, I was out of my mind,” Pack said of the final 4.4. seconds. “I didn’t really black out, but I knew this was my last game and I’m shooting it and if anybody is going to take the blame for missing a shot it’s going to be me.”
Instead he made a shot that will go down in history.
“He’s a stat sheet guy,” coach Jared Robertson said. “We’ve talked about how he rebounds, he gets steals, he makes assists. He’s our go-to guy. And when the game was on the line, and we needed a bucket, he made one of the biggest buckets in our school’s history in basketball. I can’t say enough about him.”
That’s a pretty big statement.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise Pack was the one taking that shot. He has the confidence to want to ball, and the swagger to know the shot is going down. It’s not for everyone but the mindset suits Pack to a tee, as it did with 4.4 seconds left at James Monroe, with his career hanging in the balance.
“I think to be a great player, you have to be self confidence and he definitely does,” Robertson said. “He has a little bit of show to his game that aggravates some people sometimes, but he’s just having fun. That’s just how he plays, and you can see his reaction out here, hugging his teammates and talking about how we aren’t done.”
There is more. He has backed the bravado with results.
Pack has produced records in football, as a prolific dual-threat quarterback and on the hardwood he recently went over 1,000 career points in a sectional tournament victory against Richwood.
This season he averaged 21.2 points per game, with 34 3s and scored in double figures in all but one game. He scored 20 or more nine times and had two of his top games against another state tournament team, Tug Valley, scoring 37 and 32 points in close losses to the Panthers.
It was a game in between that Pack said might have initially turned the Cavaliers season sideways, albeit momentarily, when they beat Class AA No. 1 Williamstown 67-66 in the Par-Mar tournament at West Virginia State.
“After Williamstown everybody got a big head and we thought we were the best team in the state,” Pack said. “And then we got shut up.”
That came in the form of going 3-5 in the next eight, including a 65-44 loss to James Monroe.
In the New River CTC Invitational, right before the James Monroe game, Pack was benched for what Robertson termed simply a “coaches decision.” Pack was forced to watch as his team lost to the Renegades 75-57.
Instead of sulking at the benching, Pack instead clapped and cheered his teammates on. He would return against James Monroe in the next game and had 22 points. It was after that game, when the Cavaliers fell to 5-6, that Robertson issued a team-wide a challenge.
“Coach Rob is a great coach,” Pack said. “I feel like when he yells at us it helps us communicate way better.”
Apparently it opened eyes, as the Cavaliers rolled off five straight wins and have won six of their last seven, the lone loss at Webster County in the section 2 championship.
The Cavaliers have already played three Class A state tournament teams, No. 2 seed Tug (0-2), No. 4 Webster (0-2) and No. 5 seed Clay-Battelle (1-0).
“We started the year with a couple of tough losses to Tug Valley, but they were very competitive games,” Robertson said. “We knocked off Williamstown, we knocked off Clay-Battelle. I feel like, in a way, it’s almost like we were having too much fun and not doing the things that made us successful. We went a couple weeks in the middle of the season when we really struggled. I just said, ‘Look guys, we’ve got to get back to playing the right way.’”
They have done that, and then some.
The Cavaliers hope a tough scheduled has steeled the squad for a state tournament run.
“We played Tug Valley, we played Williamstown, we played Clay Battelle, we played James Monroe, we played Webster County, we feel like we are ready to go play anybody,” Robertson said of the gauntlet of state-ranked teams. “It’s just a matter of us executing and doing our job.”