Accolades have been plentiful for the Shady Spring boys basketball team over the last few seasons under fifth-year head coach Ronnie Olson.
Huge wins over storied programs and the first-ever No. 1 ranking in school history are just some of the high marks.
Still, one important element was missing from the program’s resumé — postseason success.
That blank spot ended Tuesday night against Nicholas County in a Class AAA Region 3 co-final clash.
Coming off the school’s first sectional championship in 20 years last Wednesday, the Tigers continued their torrid run through the postseason with a convincing 93-44 win over the Grizzlies.
The win puts the Tigers back in the boys state basketball tournament for the first time since 1994 and just the second time in school history.
“It feels surreal. Some people work all their lives to have a house, have a boat or have a family. My whole life has been dedicated to the sport of basketball,” Olson said. “I have been in gyms since I was a little kid. To fulfill one of my goals as an adult with this group of kids is amazing. I am so proud of these guys and I love to watch them play.”
Coming into the contest a decided underdog, Nicholas County stayed close early with the highly-touted Tigers before things began to fall apart at a rapid pace.
“We knew we had to stay in front of them, try and defend them and not turn the ball over,” Nicholas County head coach Brian Phipps said. “Early on we did that, but then we kinda lost our minds a little bit. We tried to dribble through the pressure instead of passing through it. Then we started turning the ball over.”
With his team leading 10-6, Braden Chapman turned up his defense, sending Shady on a 9-0 run. Four steals from Chapman ended in layups, one for himself and three for Cameron Manns.
After a free throw stopped the run momentarily, Chapman drained a 3 to give Shady Spring a 15-point bulge.
Shady led 24-10 after one quarter.
“I just do what my team needs me to do to get the win,” Chapman explained. “I have been trying to focus more on defense and tonight everything came together.”
“We knew if we pressured them they couldn’t handle our pressure,” Olson said. “My hat’s off to coach Phipps, he did a great job preparing his guys. We may look like we are in a lull, but then we go on that big spurt and blow people out.”
When Chapman wasn’t making steals, he was turning offensive rebounds into buckets for his teammates.
Brother Cole Chapman was the recipient of one to open the second quarter, as was Todd Duncan, who drained a 3 off a kickout.
In his final game on the floor at Shady Spring High School, Duncan scored 25 points to lead the Tigers.
A stickback from Jaedan Holstein and a triple from Cole Chapman capped a 10-0 run to open the second quarter.
Holstein, who was showered with MVP chants as he cut down the nets after the win, was a thorn in the Grizzlies’ side all night. The times that Shady did miss shots, the sophomore cross country standout was there for the scoop and scores.
Holstein finished the night with 21 points.
“We call him MVP,” Olson said. “We missed a ton of layups tonight. I even told the guys during a timeout, they needed to thank Jaedan. He was all over the place. He is playing at a MVP-type level because he is doing everything. Without him, it is tough on us. He turned it up tonight offensively and defensively. He was all over the place. He is an all-state cross country runner and he never gets tired.”
A 3-point play by Holstein was followed by his score in the lane which gave Shady its biggest lead of the first half at 28 points.
Twin brothers Cole and Braden Chapman ended with 15 points apiece.
Rylee Nicholas led the Grizzlies with 14 and Colby Pishner added 10.
“(Shady Spring) is well coached,” Phipps said. “They are athletic. They have basketball skills. They are long and they have basketball IQ. All the things that really help them, but I am proud of my guys, they played really hard.”
Shady Spring was voted the No. 3 seed and will play Wednesday, May 5, at 9:30 a.m. against No. 6 seed Herbert Hoover.
“We are not just going down there to play,” Olson said. “We are going down there to try and win it all. It is our only goal,” Olson said.
Nicholas County (3-12)
Colby Pishner 10, Rylee Nicholas 14, D.J. Coomes 5, Ryan Keener 6, Jordan McKinney 5, Ethan Collins 2, Jaxson Morrison 2.
Shady Spring (12-2)
Todd Duncan 25, Cole Chapman 15, Braden Chapman 15, Jaedan Holstein 21, Cameron Manns 6, Ammar Maxwell 6, Devon Arrigoni 5.
NC 10 16 11 7 — 44
SS 24 28 23 18 — 93
3-point goals: NC: 3 (Nicholas 2, Coomes), SS: 8 (Duncan 7, C. Chapman). Fouled out: None.