LOGAN — Winning on the road at Logan High School’s historic Willie Akers Arena is no easy task.
Generally regarded as one of the toughest venues for visiting teams, the championship signs and banners in the rafters, and often raucous crowds, seem to give the place an aura of invincibility and is often intimidating.
Winfield, however, showed no fear as the Generals stormed into Logan and walked away with a 56-53 overtime victory over the Wildcats in the Class AAA Region 4 co-final, punching the Generals a ticket to next week’s state tournament at the Charleston Coliseum.
“It’s a fun place to play,” Winfield coach Chris Stephens said about his team’s see-saw win. “I will take these types of games any day. They are fun to play in, fun to coach and fun to watch. It was a hard-fought battle. Logan came to play tonight and they fought tooth and nail for everything. I’m just happy that we came out on top.”
No. 8-ranked Winfield improved to 13-6, while sixth-ranked Logan saw its season come to a close at 14-5.
The Generals were awarded the No. 7 seed in the AAA field and will play No. 2 Fairmont Senior in the state tournament quarterfinals at 1 p.m. next Wednesday.
The Wildcats had been searching for a state tournament berth since 2012. Winfield beat Logan for the second time this year, also taking a 51-45 decision at home during the regular season.
The Generals, having won six out of their last seven games, are on a roll heading into the state tournament, their first trip in three years.
“It’s awesome to make it back and awesome for our seniors,” Stephens said. “We have four seniors and they have been with us since day one. With the abbreviated season, they have helped some of our younger guys. They stepped up in crunch time and got stops and made defensive plays.”
Winfield’s Blake Morris scored 20 points, including four 3-pointers. Seth Shilot added 15 points but his heroics on the defensive end in overtime helped the Generals to victory.
Tied 53-all with 1:31 to go after Logan’s Corey Townsend split a pair from the free-throw line, Winfield’s Carson Crouch then hit one of two foul shots with 55.6 seconds left to put the Generals up by one.
Logan had two chances to go ahead in the final seconds, but each time Shilot denied the Wildcats with blocked shots — the first a rejection on Logan’s Scotty Browning with 34 seconds left. Winfield got the rebound but was quickly called for traveling. This time, it was Logan’s Garrett Williamson who had his shot blocked by Shilot with 20 seconds left.
Shilot snared the rebound and was fouled with 18.4 seconds left. He split from the free-throw line as Winfield led 55-53.
Logan still had one chance, but Jarron Glick’s shot fell short. Shilot grabbed the rebound and was hacked with one second left. He connected on one of two free throws to set the final score and the celebration was on.
“That’s what he can do,” Stephens said of Shilot’s huge blocks. “He did that against Logan down at our place during the regular season. Down the stretch, it felt like we had to win the game four times. But our defense has been hot all year long and we’ve relied on that. They gave us a W.”
Winfield missed out on an opportunity to win the game late in the fourth quarter.
The Generals led 52-47 but Logan tied it at 52 after a Williamson 3 and a Townsend bank shot. Winfield held the ball in the final minute but missed two shots in the closing seconds that could have won it.
Browning drilled four 3s and led Logan with 18 points. Williamson had 17.
“We had a good season but I think our free-throw shooting is what cost us the game tonight,” Logan coach Zach Green said.
The Generals jumped out to a 9-0 lead early on and held onto a 15-14 lead after one quarter. Logan outscored Winfield 12-7 in the second to go up 26-22 at the half.
The game see-sawed in the topsy-turvy third quarter. Logan grabbed a 35-28 lead after a Townsend scoop. The Generals then countered with a 14-6 run, capped off by a steal and layup by Morris, which put Winfield on top 38-37 with 1:03 left.
Logan led 39-38 after three quarters.
The Wildcats were 20 of 42 shooting from the floor for 47.6% and 6 of 15 from 3-point land. The Generals made 19 of 40 of their shots for 47.5% and 5 of 14 from beyond the 3-point arc.