By Paul Adkins
CHAPMANVILLE — The Chapmanville Regional High School boys’ basketball team is just one win away from making history.
The Tigers have their all-elusive state tournament berth within grasp.
But Chapmanville must take care of business first.
Before the Tigers punch their first-ever ticket to the West Virginia State Basketball Tournament they have to get past Nicholas County.
Favored Chapmanville isn’t looking past the underdog Grizzlies. They can’t afford to. Too much is at stake.
Still, No. 9-ranked Chapmanville (19-5) has a golden opportunity. With Scott and the sectional championship behind them now, the Tigers have much loftier goals: beat Nicholas County on their home floor and advance to the March 19-22 state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Nicholas County comes into the game at 14-10 having been taken to the tool shed last Friday night in a 82-47 spanking at the hands of the No. 2-ranked and 23-1 Poca Dots in the other sectional final.
Chapmanville outlasted Scott, 54-53, in last Friday night’s sectional finals at Logan. It was the first section title for the Tigers since former coach Dave Elkins led Chapmanville to a crown in 2006.
Tip off for the Class AA Region 4 co-championship game is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday night at Chapmanville Regional High School’s Danny Godby Gymnasium.
The game is being billed as the biggest game in Chapmanville Tigers’ basketball history.
Never have the Tigers ever had the chance to play for a state tournament berth on their home floor.
Never have the Tigers gone into a regional title game as the overwhelming favorite.
Now, Chapmanville must seize the opportunity, overcome the pressure and take care of business by beating the Grizzlies.
Chapmanville hopes to expel all of its past demons and reach the big dance. Numerous times in Chapmanville basketball history the Tigers have made it all the way to the regional championship game only to fall short.
Since 2000, Chapmanville has lost seven times in regional finals, often to Tug Valley and Logan when the Wildcats were a Double-A team from 2003-08. The last shortfall was in 2010 when the Tigers lost by 10 points to Sissonville in the regional title game.
Chapmanville hopes to end all of those years of frustration on Thursday night on their home floor.
Nicholas County may be coming into the game as the underdogs but the Grizzlies are no pushover.
Nicholas has shown its basketball mettle this season by playing a handful of Chapmanville’s common Cardinal Conference foes very tough.
“We played Nicholas County twice last year,” Chapmanville coach Allan Hatcher said. “What people don’t realize about Nicholas County is that they have a lot of players back from last year. They are a senior-dominated team and they have great size. They have good experience. They have two kids who are their leading scorers in Jared Tharp and Cody McClung. Their offense is built around those two guys.”
Nicholas County is led by 5-foot-10 senior guard Jared Tharp. He had 14 points in the sectional game with Poca. He averages 17.3 points a game.
The Grizzlies have size with 6-7 Zach McCourt (6.0 ppg.), 6-5 Justin Browning (5.0 ppg.), 6-3 Nathan Stewart and 6-3 Cody McClung, who averages 14.3 points per contest. Jacob Hopkins, a 5-11 junior, also starts. He averages 6.5 points a game. Eric Peyatt, a 6-2 senior forward, is another starter for the Grizzlies, who checks in at eight points per contest.
The NCHS team is coached by Brian Phipps.
“They are a very very experienced team,” Hatcher said of Nicholas. “They have good size. They have a team that is built around their top two scorers. They also play a lot of man-to-man defense. They also play a 2-3 zone and press out of a 2-2-1. We’ve got our work cut out for us. They are coming on our home court to play and they are a good, solid basketball team. They play very smart but I’ve got a lot of confidence in my guys that we are going to be prepared for them. We’re working hard this week and we’ll be ready to go on Thursday.”
The Tigers are led by Josh Butcher, a 6-foot junior guard. Butcher is Chapmanville’s leading scorer and paced the Tigers in the Scott game with a game-high 21 points. Butcher was the Cardinal Conference’s leading scorer for much of the season and averages 17 points a game.
Other top Tigers include: post-men Kenny Plumley (13.0 ppg.) and Brady Cox (10.0 ppg.); guards Trey Dalton (6.0 ppg.) and Joe Tackett (6.5 ppg.); forwards Zac Casto (6.0 ppg.) and Jon Williamson (4.5 ppg.); and others.