Big Blacks surge past Wildcats


By Paul Boggs - pboggs@civitasmedia.com



Point Pleasant’s Parker Rairden drives to the basket on Nitro’s Michael Martin (1) during Tuesday night’s boys basketball game at Point Pleasant High School.


Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

POINT PLEASANT, W. Va. — Simply put, Point Pleasant’s second-half offensive effort on Tuesday night resembled a perfect Christmas wrapping job.

The Big Blacks constantly screened, curled and back-door ribbon-cutted the visiting Nitro Wildcats, then sealed an important boys basketball victory with a bow on top — in the form of four free throws in the final 38 seconds.

In the end, Point Pleasant’s early Christmas gift was its fourth consecutive win, as the Big Blacks — in their home opener — turned back the Wildcats 63-50.

With the win, Point Pleasant is now 4-1 — with key bookend wins over Gallia Academy and Nitro (3-2), sandwiched around its Class AA boys championship in the Independent Oil & Gas Association tournament.

On Tuesday, the Big Blacks overcame a sloppy, turnover-prone first half of hoops — leading for the final 14 minutes and 55 seconds, while never trailing for the final 16-and-a-half.

While Point Pleasant’s defensive effort against Nitro remained consistent and strong throughout, the Big Blacks’ 14-2 run over a span of six minutes and 18 seconds reversed a six-point deficit (23-17) into an eight-point advantage (33-25).

The Wildcats did get within a point (43-42) only 47 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Parker Rairden’s top of the key three-pointer jump-started a 20-8 spurt the rest of the way — in which Nitro got no closer than a pair of three-point deficits (46-43 and 48-45).

Point Pleasant’s Cason Payne split a pair of free throws to make it 55-47 with three minutes and five seconds left, as a back-breaking back-door basket by Camron Long with a minute-and-a-half remaining iced the contest.

With PPHS leading 59-50 and 38 ticks to play, Will Harbour hit a pair of foul shots, before Doug Workman — the Big Blacks’ leading scorer who was held to only six points on Tuesday — sank two more just 15 seconds later.

The final score was Point Pleasant’s largest lead of the entire night.

Once again, the Big Blacks overcame a deficit — and at times performance struggles — to capture another victory.

In fact, their fourth win has already matched last season’s total.

“I’m just very proud of the kids. Their unselfishness showed again tonight. With our history and what we have been through the last couple of years, I feel like it’s a process and a growth on learning how to win,” said PPHS coach Josh Williams. “Every game this year we have faced adversity. I tell them that in every game, adversity is going to knock on our door, but how are we going to answer? Tonight, I felt we calmed down and started trusting one another once again and answered all their runs.”

And, that was without Workman going off for almost 40 points — as he did in the triumphs against Gallia Academy and Braxton County.

While Workman made only one field goal and four foul shots on Tuesday, including his two freebies that gave Point Pleasant the lead, he heavily contributed in other ways.

He set solid screens, as the Big Blacks executed a bevy of nice half-court cuts and curls, often resulting in wide-open layups in the lane.

“It wasn’t Doug’s (Workman) night scoring or shooting the ball. They were really focusing on him. But at halftime, I told him he could win the game for us by setting screens, because they were hugging him so tight. It opened the floor up for everybody else. And Doug really bought into that. Doug has been our main scorer, but we’re going to show people we’re not a one-man team. We have very capable role players, and in the second half, those role players stepped up to the challenge,” said Williams. “We switched a few roles up, and things started to roll for us. Once you see the ball go in for some layups, it just does a lot.”

It did a lot for Rairden, who went off for a game-high 22 points, including canning three of his four threes in the second half.

He finished with eight total field goals and 2-of-4 free throws, as his third-quarter three-balls from the corner and once again at the top of the key — only a minute and 10 seconds apart — maintained the lead at eight (36-28 and 41-33).

Harbour hit for six field goals en route to 14 points, dropping a dozen second-half markers, including with 2:15 in the third that made it 43-35 — and back-to-back buckets that made it 52-45 with four minutes to play.

As part of the 8-2 spree in the first 4:48 of the third, Payne scored twice while assisting Austin Liptrap off an inbound.

“Nitro is really good at pressuring the ball. If we set high screens and cross screens, we can gets curls off of them. It will open us up. If they are going to pressure us hard, just back-door them and be strong with the ball and get layups,” said Williams. “If they are going to sag off and give us the three, we’ll take it. But the layup is the trump card. We’ll always take a layup. I thought we did a good job at calming down and being more methodical in the second half.”

Payne popped nine points on four field goals, as Long landed a three off the wing with 30 seconds remaining in the second period, forging a 23-23 tie.

“It was huge. Tie ballgame at halftime and we were fine. Nothing hurt,” said Williams.

The final of four ties was at 25-25, before the Big Blacks reeled off eight unanswered — and never trailed again.

The Wildcats, after scoring the game’s opening six points, led throughout the entire first half — including at 21-15 and 23-17.

With a minute-and-a-half left in the second stanza, though, Workman drove the lane for his only field goal — before Liptrap split a pair of free throws and Long launched his tide-turning triple.

Austin Woodrum (13 points), Deshawn Womack (12 points) and Seth Brooks (nine points) notched four field goals apiece for Nitro, as Woodrum went 5-of-7 from the line.

The Big Blacks return to the road on Friday night — when they travel across the Ohio River to River Valley.

“The kids are feeling really good about themselves,” said Williams. “Every time they step on the court, they feel like they can win and that they are supposed to win. They are starting to believe that and you can see that in their play. We have to continue to work on things and improve, but we’re getting better each game. We’ll celebrate our wins that night, but the next day it’s on to focusing on the next opponent.”

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Point Pleasant’s Parker Rairden drives to the basket on Nitro’s Michael Martin (1) during Tuesday night’s boys basketball game at Point Pleasant High School.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2016/12/web1_12.20-PP-Rairden.jpgPoint Pleasant’s Parker Rairden drives to the basket on Nitro’s Michael Martin (1) during Tuesday night’s boys basketball game at Point Pleasant High School. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs

pboggs@civitasmedia.com