CHARLESTON — Having such a youthful team and being somewhat of a dark horse has its advantages.
The pressure is off of you.
That’s just fine for Chapmanville Regional High School coach Brad Napier and his Tigers, which defeated Clay County 46-38 Tuesday afternoon in the Class AA state tournament quarterfinals at the Charleston Coliseum.
With the win, fifth-seeded Chapmanville advances to Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinals where they will play the winner of the Williamstown-Moorefield game, which was played late Tuesday evening.
Making its fifth straight trip to the state tournament, Chapmanville (9-6) had been accustomed to being one of the favorites in recent years, winning back-to-back Class AA state championships in 2018 and 2019 with powerful teams.
Last year, the Tigers’ bid for a three-peat was foiled as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season with Chapmanville holding a 22-2 record and the state’s No. 1 ranking.
A year later, Chapmanville is back and is advancing with whole new cast of characters.
“It’s an exciting thing for me as a coach and for our players,” Napier said. “For a lot of these guys, this is their first experience in the state tournament. Our standards are still the same. Our first goal is always to get here because you can’t win if you are not here. Then when we get here we want to play at the highest level.”
Napier is now 9-2 in state tournament games at Chapmanville, and the Tigers have won 18 straight postseason games since a 59-54 loss to Fairmont Senior in the Class AA state final in 2017.
“We don’t talk about the past a whole lot and we don’t dwell on it,” Napier said. “But we want to honor those guys. This is a whole new team and we have a whole new set of strengths and weaknesses.”
On Tuesday, freshman Zion Blevins led the Tigers with 18 points and eight rebounds. He was the only CRHS player to reach double digits in scoring.
Curtis Litton, Clay’s 6-7 center, paced the Panthers with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Tanner Faulkner tallied 12 points and nine boards.
“I’m pretty pleased with our effort tonight,” Napier said. “We played hard against a good team. They challenge you in a lot of different ways. They switch up the pressure on you. We were able to close out the game in the second half. We’ve been more of a second-half team this year.”
It was Chapmanville’s defense which again came through.
Clay County (12-4) made just 13 of 43 shots from the floor for the game at 30.2%. Chapmanville was a tad better, sinking 18 of 48 field goals for 37.5 percent.
“That’s our thing, our defense,” Napier said. “Sometimes we struggle offensively, but we guard well and our defense is always there. The big thing that we preach is that we win every possession.”
The Tigers were able to survive a cold-shooting second quarter where Clay County outscored Chapmanville 11-2 and took a 16-13 halftime edge. The Tigers were just 1 of 15 shooting from the floor for the period.
“In the second quarter we really struggled to score,” Napier said. “We’re young and it sometimes takes a while for us to settle in and play even though we started out pretty good in the first quarter.”
Chapmanville then outscored Clay County 12-7 in the third to take a 25-23 lead, then went on an 11-2 run in the fourth to slowly pull away.
A top-side 3-pointer by Brody Dalton began Chapmanville’s fourth-quarter run. After the run was over, the Tigers led 36-25 with five minutes to go.
Clay County got their deficit under 10 points three times, but the Tigers were able to hold on.
For the Panthers, making their first trip to the state tournament since 2006, it was the end of their season and the end of the prep careers for six of their players.
“It was a great experience,” Clay County coach Scott Gibson said. “I think all of these guys wished that they would have played better offensively. We struggled offensively, and give Chapmanville credit with their defense. They did a tremendous job putting pressure on us.”
Clay County committed 19 turnovers to 11 for CRHS.
“That’s not good,” Gibson said. “And that was because of their pressure.”
Chapmanville is just one win away from reaching Saturday’s state title game.
“We want to win them all,” Napier said.
Chapmanville 11 2 12 21 — 46: Blevins 18, Dalton 9, Craddock 8, Workman 7, Smith 2, Jeffrey 2.
Clay County 5 11 7 15 — 38: Litton 15, Faulkner 12, Burkhamer 6, Pritt 3, Krajeski 2.