Having such a youthful team and being somewhat of a dark horse has its advantages. The pressure is off you.
That’s just fine for Chapmanville coach Brad Napier and his Tigers, who defeated Clay County 46-38 Tuesday afternoon in the Class AA state tournament quarterfinals at the Charleston Coliseum.
With the win, fifth-seeded Chapmanville advances to Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal against the winner of Tuesday night’s game between No. 1 Williamstown (14-1) and No. 8 Moorefield (6-11).
Chapmanville (9-6), making its fifth straight trip to the state tournament, had been accustomed to being one of the favorites in recent years, winning back-to-back Class AA championships in 2018 and 2019 with powerful teams.
Last year, the Tigers’ bid for a three-peat was foiled as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season with Chapmanville holding a 22-2 record and the state’s No. 1 ranking.
A year later, Chapmanville is back and advancing with whole new cast of characters.
“It’s an exciting thing for me as a coach and for our players,” Napier said. “For a lot of these guys, this is their first experience in the state tournament. Our standards are still the same. Our first goal is always to get here because you can’t win if you are not here. Then when we get here, we want to play at the highest level.”
Freshman Zion Blevins led the Tigers in their win over Clay County with 18 points and eight rebounds. Curtis Litton, Clay’s 6-foot-7 center, paced the Panthers with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Tanner Faulkner tallied 12 points and nine boards.
“I’m pretty pleased with our effort tonight,” Napier said. “We played hard against a good team. They challenge you in a lot of different ways. They switch up the pressure on you. We were able to close out the game in the second half. We’ve been more of a second-half team this year.”
Chapmanville’s defense held Clay County (12-4) to just 30.2% shooting from the floor (13 of 43). Chapmanville was just a tad better, sinking 18 of 48 field goals for 37.5%.
“That’s our thing, our defense,” Napier said. “Sometimes we struggle offensively, but we guard well and our defense is always there. The big thing that we preach is that we win every possession.”
The Tigers were able to survive a cold-shooting second quarter where Clay outscored Chapmanville 11-2 and took a 16-13 halftime lead. The Tigers were just 1 of 15 from the floor for the period.
Chapmanville outscored Clay County 12-7 in the third quarter to take a 25-23 lead, then went on an 11-2 run in the fourth to slowly pull away.
A top-side 3-pointer by Brody Dalton began Chapmanville’s fourth-quarter run. After the run was over, the Tigers led 36-25 with five minutes to go. The Panthers got it to under 10 points three times but the Tigers were able to hold on.
The Panthers were making their first trip to the state tournament since 2006.
“It was a great experience,” Clay County coach Scott Gibson said. “I think all of these guys wished that they would have played better offensively. We struggled offensively and give Chapmanville credit with their defense. They did a tremendous job putting pressure on us.”
Clay County committed 19 turnovers to 11 for Chapmanville.
“That’s not good,” Gibson said. “And that was because of their pressure.”
Napier is now 9-2 in state tourney games as the Chapmanville coach and the Tigers have now won 18 straight postseason games, dating back to the 2017 season and a 59-54 loss to Fairmont Senior in the Class AA state finals.