If Shady Spring basketball coach Ronnie Olson wants to drink in the spoils of winning the Class AAA state championship in May, perhaps he can use one of the stainless steel water bottles stored in a box he found on his desk at the school Tuesday.
“I hadn’t been in there since school ended,” Olson said Wednesday right before his team tipped off for the third time in the WVU Tech high school team shootout at Robert Kosnoski Gym at Memorial Baptist Church in Beckley. What he found was that box.
“Somebody had state championship water bottles made for us,” Olson said. “Big metal ones with the score (of the championship game) and our roster. I didn’t know they were there. I’ve got to find out who it is and say thank you and write a note to them. They’re probably $20 metal water bottles like Yetis with our championship logo and everything on it.”
That’s the way it’s gone since Olson made good on his promise and delivered a state basketball championship to Shady.
It was years in the making and was just what he thought it would be.
“How I imagined it would feel it does,” Olson said. “The way our community views this and embraces us has been awesome. I think the guys have enjoyed it. How much an impact it’s had on our community is the biggest thing.”
Right now the Tigers are putting in work this summer and in two events on Tuesday and Wednesday the Tigers have gone 5-1, falling to Logan in the final game of the Patriot Shootout Tuesday afternoon at George Washington. Wins have come against St. Albans and South Charleston Tuesday and Nitro, George Washington and Wyoming East Wednesday.
The Tigers lose only senior, Todd Duncan (14.4 ppg, 55 3s), a relatively big loss because he was one of the area’s top 3-point shooters and was captain of the Class AAA all-state second team.
Yet Shady will be deeper than it was a year ago. Starters returning include first-team all-staters in Braden Chapman (17.6) and Cole Chapman (12.9) and honorable mention picks Cam Manns (9.8) and Jaeden Holstein (7.1). Yes, all five Shady Spring starters were on the Class AAA all-state squad. And if there was an all-defensive team all five would have likely been on it.
The Tigers allowed just two teams to score over 50 in the postseason, Westside in an 85-50 sectional championship win and Winfield in a 68-51 state semifinal win, though that came with a a late flourish by the Generals. Shady was 15-2, its two losses to Class AAAA runner-up Morgantown and Class AA runner-up Poca.
With a deeper team entering the season Shady Spring will be highly favored to make it back to the state tournament and defend its title. Back also are part-time starters Sam Jordan and Ammar Maxwell, along with Devin Arrigoni.
Also, Brady Green, who played at Independence last season for his dad Mike but grew up playing at Shady Middle School, has transferred back, and freshman Jack Williams, brother of former Shady Spring all-state player and 1,000-point scorer Tommy Williams, has also impressed early on. He had 20 points in an early morning Shady Spring victory in the WVU Tech event.
“Jack’s played really well as a freshman,” Olson said. “He’s come in and he fits our system perfect. He hit some big shots for us so far.
“Brady can stretch the floor (he had three big 3s to help Shady Spring pull away from George Washington Wednesday). Brady’s going to come in and he’s going to make a huge impact. I love what he brings to the team. He’s a good kid. He boxes out. He does whatever you ask. He works hard. That’s what we are about. He loves these guys and these guys love him. We’re happy to have him back where he belongs.”
Last season as a freshman at Independence he averaged 7.2 points and had 18 3s with four double-figure games.
It’s been a whirlwind for the players. With Covid pushing the season up into May, there was little down time.
How much time off did the Tigers get after winning the title Saturday evening?
“I think that weekend and Monday we were back in the gym working out,” Cole Chapman said. “Then we had a (AAU) tournament the next weekend.”
The goal won’t change, said his brother.
“It’s been exciting but we’ve been maintaining and getting in the gym and working hard,” Braden Chapman said. “The goal is the same. We want to get another one so we’re keeping our foot on the pedal.”
Things are different as the hunted. Everybody is going to give the Tigers their best shot.
“After we won our first game (against St. Albans) somebody said, ‘They just won a state championship so keep your head up’ and that gives us a lot of motivation to try to win it again,” Braden Chapman said.
“During summer league after we won a few games we could hear other teams talking to themselves, ‘That’s OK, they’re the state champs.’” Cole Chapman said. “That’s kind of (because of) the goal we’ve reached and I think it’s funny.”
Olson said he is looking forward to dropping the state championship banner against Westside Dec. 7 at the team’s home opener.
Those water bottles also might be a good way to wash down one of the “on the house” meals he has received since the title, another one of the spoils of victory.
“I walked into a restaurant for a pickup a few weeks after (the title) and told them who the order was for and they said, ‘It’s on the house, Coach,’” Olson said. “The fact it means so much to our community is the important thing. That’s what small communities do for each other. It was on Father’s Day, too, which makes it nice.”