By Rusty Udy
For The Register-Herald
SHADY SPRING —
As many West Virginia Mountaineer fans can relate, the move to a new league, new conference or new classification is often met with several bumps and bruises during the adjustment period. The same has been true for the Oak Hill Red Devils and the Shady Spring Tigers.
Both teams have moved up from Class AA to Class AAA this year and have felt those bumps and bruises along the way. Oak Hill has struggled to a 3-17 season with only one Class AAA victory, over Buckhannon-Upshur back in early December. Shady Spring has faired better record-wise, 13-9, but holds only two Class AAA victories, both over Oak Hill.
However, the beauty of tournament play in West Virginia is that all teams have a chance, records only used for seeding purposes in the sectional format.
With this in mind, Oak Hill and Shady Spring did battle in the opening round of the Region 3, Section 2 tournament Monday at Shady Spring High School, with the host Tigers coming out on top 65-58.
Oak Hill opened the game with a different look, minus starter Josh Jones — who did not make the trip — and Kadrin Goodman sitting out until the second half.
“We knew they were down a couple players, so we looked to get out fast and score quick,” said Shady Spring player of the year candidate Chase Connor. The Tigers were true to their aim racing up and down the floor to a 12-2 lead with 4:15 left in the opening period.
Oak Hill seemed to settle down and gather itself at that point, closing the period on a 6-0 run that saw the Red Devils miss numerous opportunities at close range but clearly finish with the momentum on their side.
“We are just not finishing shots. We haven’t finished all year, but the kids were playing hard,” stated first-year Oak Hill coach Walt Raines.
Oak Hill capitalized on the momentum swing, jumping out quick in the second period on a 6-0 run to take its first lead of the game at 14-12. But Connor, harassed all night by an Oak Hill player in his face all over the floor, answered for the Tigers with a 3-point bomb to stem the tide.
Over the next four minutes, Connor and Oak Hill’s Ervin Fruit led a back-and-forth battle that ended in a 20-20 tie with just over three minutes remaining in the first half.
In the last two minutes of the half, Shady Spring finally got its high-octane attack going and closed on a 6-0 run, followed by a 13-6 early third-quarter run to push the lead to 13 points.
“I thought we played a real good first half until the end there when they had that spurt, then they started the third quarter with another spurt, so from then on we were playing catch-up,” lamented Raines.
The Tigers would push the lead to 15 later in the quarter and the Red Devils could not get any closer than seven. The mountain created by not finishing shots and poor foul shooting on the part of the Red Devils, to go along with the quick spurts from the Tigers, proved too much.
Shady Spring head coach Steve Clark was happy to get the first sectional win out of the way.
“It was kind of an ugly game, physical-type game,” Clark said. “We played well enough to survive.”
Although hampered by the aggressive Oak Hill defense and a sore ankle, Connor finished with 19 points for the Tigers. The Shady Spring big men benefited from the Red Devils’ attention to Connor with several easy baskets.
Big men Jacob Buckland and Juwan Rowe finished with 12 points apiece and Tyler Bonds had eight.
Jordan Meadows added nine for the Tigers.
Fruit, a senior, was a force all night for Oak Hill, finishing with 21 points to lead all scorers. Joey Re closed the night with 11 points, but struggled from the foul line, going 3-for-11.
Next up for Shady Spring is Class AAA No. 2 Woodrow Wilson in the tournament semifinals Wednesday at the Brushfork Armory.
“Woodrow is probably the hottest team in the state right now,” Clark said. “They are a very good team, very quick. They have it all. We have to find a way to match up with them.”
As coaches anguish over the challenge ahead, the youthful Connor is excited.
“They are seen as the best,” Connor said “It will be fun to play Woodrow.”
Oak Hill (3-18)
Kadrin Goodman 1 0-0 2, Marc Logan 1 1-2 3, Kyalo Bradford 3 2-2 8, Joey Re 4 3-1 11, Ervin Fruit 8 4-6 21, Quenton Traynham 2 2-2 6, Chris Hysell 1 1-2 4, Colby Gray 0 1-2 1, Simeon Keys 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 14-27 58.
Shady Spring (14-9)
Chase Connor 8 1-2 19, Jordan Meadows 4 0-0 9, Tyler Bonds 4 0-0 8, Corey Snyder 2 1-2 5, Jacob Buckland 5 2-2 12, Juwan Rowe 6 0-0 12. Totals: 29 4-6 65.
OH 8 12 16 22 — 58
H 12 14 21 19 — 65
3-point goals — OH: 2 (Fruit, Hysell); SS: 3 (Connor 2, Snyder). Fouled out — none.