Generally speaking, the best teams yield the best players.
Class AA No. 1 Shady Spring is no exception.
Between freshman twins Braden and Cole Chapman and senior guards Luke LeRose and Tommy Williams, the Tigers boast a case for four all-state players. It’s true that either of those four could have a big night and be the key cog in a signature win, but it always comes down to Williams.
Coming into today, the senior guard is averaging just under 24 points per game.
That, along with the Tigers’ perfect 12-0 record is why he’s gone from a fringe first-team all-state player to legitimate candidate for the Evans Award.
The Evans Award, presented to the best boys basketball player in West Virginia as voted by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, is the state’s most prestigious award. The Tigers have never had a winner of the award, that could change this year.
Skeptical? Williams’ resumé speaks for itself.
The Tigers are 12-0 overall while playing, at worst, the second-toughest schedule in West Virginia.
They’re 7-0 against teams that have appeared in the AP Top 10 this season, all of which were Class AA and Class AAA foes. The teams? Fairmont Senior, Robert C. Byrd, South Charleston, Bluefield, Woodrow Wilson, George Washington and Westside. For extra measure you can throw in wins against Wyoming East on a neutral floor and Class AAA Capital on the road.
Of those seven wins against Top 10 teams, three have come at home, two as the away team and two while playing on a neutral court.
Williams’ numbers in those games? He’s averaging 22.4 points per game while also leading the team in rebounding — as a point guard.
His best game of the year came against Woodrow Wilson in the Little General Battle for the Armory, where he lit the Flying Eagles up for 34 points and led Shady to its first-ever win over Woodrow. At home against South Charleston he scored 28 in a blowout victory and 25 on the road against Robert C. Byrd, a semifinalist from last season which is poised for another run at the state tournament.
His most important performance, though, came Jan. 18 when Shady hosted No. 4 Bluefield.
Limited to just two points in the first half, Williams — who missed Friday's win over Independence with an injury — exploded in the second half for 18 points, but his most important contribution came on the defensive side of the ball.
When Shady head coach Ronnie Olson went to his five guard lineup, Williams was tasked with bumping inside to defend 6-foot-5 center and WVU football commit Sean Martin. The 6-3 guard’s length helped to deny Martin the ball in crunch time forcing the Beavers to settle for outside shots.
The other candidates in the running will likely include Logan’s David Early, who has drawn Division l offers, University guard and Bowling Green commit Kaden Metheny, Chapmanville center and Marshall commit Obinna Anochili-Killen, Poca’s Isaac McKneely and Morgantown’s Carson Poffenberger.
Even in that qualified field, Williams rises to the top.
Logan suffered a loss to Woodrow Wilson in late December at Woodrow. The next night Shady defeated that same Woodrow team by 12 points in Beckley, just 24 hours after grinding out a win against George Washington. Early poured in 27 points against Woodrow while Williams scored 34.
That same Logan team went on to hand Anochili-Killen’s Tigers a 72-61 loss. The Tigers played another tight game the same night Shady hosted Bluefield, defeating McKneely’s Dots 45-40, despite Poca going scoreless in the third quarter.
Of course, Region 4 has three of the best eight teams in the classification in Poca, Logan and Chapmanville, so naturally a loss will come here or there, but for Williams that hasn’t been the case. He’s led the Tigers to a flawless record and when it’s crunch time, he’s delivered against the state’s best, with arguably only Metheny’s University squad playing a tougher schedule (Poca, Greater Beckley Christian, Wheeling Park, Woodrow and Morgantown twice).
Of course, there’s the argument Williams isn’t doing it alone with LeRose and the Chapman twins spinning a bottle to see who will be supplementing Williams with a 20-point effort of his own.
That’s fair, but it wasn’t held against Taevon Horton in 2018 and Jalen Bridges in 2019, the last two Evans Award winners who played together at Fairmont Senior with a third perennial all-stater in Zyon Dobbs and Dasilas Jones. In fact Dobbs, Horton and Bridges were all three first-teamers the year Horton won.
There’s still a month left until the postseason tips. Before then Shady will get Bluefield and South Charleston once more, but the truth of the matter is the first half of the season has cemented Williams as an Evans Award favorite as opposed to a darkhorse.
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