POCA — For Poca, all the frustration and anticipation of the last 131/2 months was washed away Thursday evening by 32 minutes of sharp basketball.
Jackson Toney wore out a spot firing 3-pointers from the corner and scored 23 points and Isaac McKneely tallied 20 as the Dots secured a berth in next week’s Class AA state tournament with a 75-31 victory against Roane County in the Region 4 co-finals at Allen Osborne Court.
Poca (11-4) earned the No. 2 seed in the state tournament and will take on No. 7 seed Bluefield (9-9) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Charleston Coliseum.
The issue was never in doubt Thursday after the Dots stormed out to a 22-0 lead after one quarter. They committed just one turnover and five personal fouls in the entire game and the starters shot 61% from the floor before giving way to reserves in the fourth quarter.
“We’re real thankful just to get to play,’’ said Poca coach Allen Osborne. “A lot of people put a lot of work into it.’’
Osborne lauded Secondary School Activities Commission executive director Bernie Dolan and his staff, along with administrators at both Poca High School and the Putnam County board.
“They really worked hard to get these kids an opportunity,’’ Osborne said, “and we’re really appreciative of it. Just thankful to get to play. It’s something you can’t take for granted.’’
On March 12 of last year, Poca was set to host Logan in the Class AA Region 4 co-finals for a spot in the state tournament, but that game was called off about four hours before tipoff on the day COVID-19 shut down all of high school basketball in West Virginia. The remainder of the postseason was eventually canceled, leaving teams like the Dots wondering what if.
However, all of that is becoming a distant memory for the Dots.
“It feels great,’’ said McKneely, the All-State junior guard who has committed to the University of Virginia. “I felt that we had a really good team last year and it was unfortunate that we got canceled. It’s good to go back to Charleston. I can’t wait to play. It’s a cool place to play and hopefully they have a good amount of fans ... and it’ll be a good atmosphere again.’’
The Dots didn’t need much scoring from McKneely Thursday (“He was a passer tonight,’’ Osborne said), especially with Toney knocking down five 3s, all of them corner shots. Toney also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds to lead a 39-22 edge off the boards. Ethan Payne made his first five shots for Poca and added 13 points.
“Jackson’s shooting the ball really well,’’ Osborne said, “and I was really happy with Toby Payne’s defense tonight. [Roane’s Blake Murrey] was averaging about 14 a game, and he did a great job on him.
“I’m really happy with the kids. They’ve overcome a lot — two COVID situations and injuries and we lost our point guard and two games on buzzer-beaters. It could have been easy [to fold], but they really hung in there and persevered.’’
The Raiders (8-13) received six points each from Layne Epling and Luke Boggs and Carson Mealy landed eight rebounds. Murrey finished with five points.
Roane started the game holding the ball for long stretches — one minute on its first possession and two minutes on its second. But four of its first five possessions ended in turnovers — two on steals leading to Dots layups — and fell behind 12-0.