By Cam Huffman
SHADY SPRING —
A talented point guard lit up the Shady Spring High School gymnasium Tuesday night, knocking down four 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 29 points, while leading his team to victory.
His name, surprisingly, wasn’t Chase Connor.
Wyoming East junior Austin Canada outshined the Shady Spring star, scoring 22 second-half points to lead the Class AA No. 3 Warriors (10-2) to a 96-79 road victory over the Class AAA Tigers (7-5), who saw a seven-game winning streak snapped in front of a large home crowd.
“I shot and shot in the first half and just kept missing,” said Canada. “The coaches kept telling me to keep shooting, because I was wide open and they would have to fall at some point. I got open, and I had to take the shots.”
Canada wasn’t the only Warrior filling up the stat sheet — not by a long shot. Wyoming East saw all five of its starters reach double figures in scoring. Junior guard Josh Tunstalle shot it well from the perimeter, as well, knocking down three 3-pointers to finish with 22 points. Senior forward Brett Bowling scored 15, freshman center Cody Lester added 13 and junior guard Christian Hedinger scored 11.
“That’s what we want to do,” said Wyoming East head coach Rory Chapman. “I’ve never had a team who could spread it out as much. It can be a different guy every night.
“We’ve had six or seven guys lead us in scoring at different points in the season. When you do that, you’re hard to guard.”
The Tigers found some balance on offense as well, led by senior forward Jacob Buckland, who dominated the paint in the early going, scoring 16 of his team-best 22 points in the opening quarter. Junior guard Jordan Meadows came off the bench to score 17, and Juwan Rowe, a senior forward, attacked the glass for 10.
But Shady Spring’s usual point producer went missing for most of the game. Connor — a state player of the year candidate, who came into the game averaging almost 24 points per contest — had just two points at the halftime break. He finished with 13, but six of those came on a pair of 3-pointers in the final two minutes, when the Warriors already had the game well in hand.
“Sometimes you’re on, and sometimes you’re off,” said Shady Spring head coach Steve Clark. “He didn’t have his normal shooting night, but we still wanted him to shoot the ball. He made a lot of other things happen. Buckland had 22, and Chase gave him the ball about every time.
“We’ve got several people that can do different things. If he’s not doing well and we’re still in the ballgame, that’s a good sign for us.”
Despite all of those numbers, the Tigers were very much in the game, tied 50-all with 3:30 left in the third quarter and down just six, 73-67, with 5:30 to go in the game.
Late turnovers down the stretch, and Connor’s inability to knock down the shots when his team needed them most, turned the game into a runaway as Wyoming East knocked down its free throws and the Tigers failed to answer at the other end.
Connor’s cold shooting was no bigger part of the result than the Warriors’ perimeter fire. Shady Spring found success with its zone in the early going, as the visitors struggled to work through the defense for close looks, but when Canada caught fire with three third-quarter 3s, it became contagious.
As a team, Wyoming East ended the game with 10 3-pointers, making Shady pay for its game plan.
“I had watched them play a couple times, and they hadn’t shot the ball that well from the perimeter,” said Clark. “It kind of shocked me a little bit.
“We just didn’t think they’d shoot it that well from outside, but we’ll know better next time.”
Winners of nine of their last 10, the Warriors will be at PikeView on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Shady Spring will host Summers County that same night, with the varsity game starting at 5:30 p.m.
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
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Wyoming East (10-2)
Austin Canada 9 7-8 29, Cody Lester 5 3-3 13, Josh Tunstalle 7 5-8 22, Brett Bowling 6 2-4 15, Christian Hedinger 3 3-5 11, Tyler Lester 1 2-2 4, Jordan Hayes 1 0-0 2. Totals 32 22-30 96.
Shady Spring (7-5)
Steven Chhabra 0 1-2 1, Juwan Rowe 5 0-0 10, Corey Snyder 0 2-2 2, Jacob Buckland 10 2-3 22, Chase Connor 5 0-3 13, Jordan Meadows 7 0-0 17, Tyler Bonds 5 2-4 12, Nathan Williams 1 0-0 2. Totals 33 5-14 79.
WE 23 18 25 30 — 96
SS 21 17 23 18 — 79
3-point goals — WE: 10 (Canada 4, Tunstalle 3, Bowling, Hedinger); SS: 6 (Connor 3, Meadows 3). Fouled out — none.