POINT PLEASANT, W. Va. — For a while, Point Pleasant was witnessing its 21-point lead melt away during Tuesday night’s boys basketball game against the visiting Shady Spring Tigers.
But the Big Blacks, behind a snow-plow of early three-pointers along with another late surge, made sure Shady Spring was their first victim in calendar year 2016.
That’s because the Big Blacks, winning their first game since Dec. 29, snapped their 13-game losing streak by taming the Tigers 63-54.
Point Pleasant scored in double figures for all four quarters — and improved to 3-17 with the win.
The Tigers, which rolled the Big Blacks by 20 points (59-39) two weeks ago in Raleigh County, fell to 8-9.
The Big Blacks built an early 32-11 lead behind six first-half three-pointers, including a combined five from Doug Workman (two) and Bradley Gibbs (three).
They then withstood Shady Spring’s furious rally to within five points twice, including 53-48 with four minutes and 17 seconds to play.
By making 4-of-9 free throws in the final minute and 49 seconds, along with two terrific Parker Rairden field goals off Cason Payne assists, the Big Blacks were officially off the slide.
“It feels good that we finally put all the pieces together,” said PPHS coach Josh Williams. “We knew that streak was in double digits, and we still had that little letdown late in this game. I thought the kids got a little tentative and took some bad shots. But for the most part, the kids did what was asked of them and executed the gameplan. I’m happy for them. I feel like we’re better that what our record indicates, and I put that on me as a head coach. I think we have made advances and have gotten better.”
Point Pleasant almost knocked off Cabell-Midland on Saturday night, falling 56-53.
However, PPHS finally closed the deal three days later.
The Big Blacks ballooned a 16-9 lead at the first stop to a doubled 34-17 tally at halftime.
There were only two ties at 6-6 and 8-8, as Point’s eight unanswered erased an 8-6 Tiger lead at the 3:50 mark of the first quarter.
Workman rained in both of his threes for the Big Blacks’ first two baskets, before four consecutive field goals from Payne, Brandon Henderson and Gibbs gave Point the 14-8 advantage.
The Tigers didn’t score for two minutes and 44 seconds in the period, and Gibbs’ pair of free throws made it 16-9 after one.
Gibbs got it going in the second quarter, hitting three threes including one off the wing with 1:20 remaining to make it 32-11.
“We’ve actually been a pretty good shooting team all year. At times, we fall in love with that outside shot. But I thought the shots that we took in the first half were right in rhythm of the offense. They were good looks, and when we shoot the ball well, it opens things up for our (lane) drivers. I was pleased with that. I know we’re capable shooters.”
The six-foot, five-inch senior Gibbs — on six total field goals and 5-of-6 free throws — poured in 21 points to pace all scorers.
Rairden, on two trifectas and five total field goals, chipped in 12, while Workman — with 3-of-4 free throws — added 11.
Trey Tucker, on a third-quarter field goal and 6-of-10 free throws including 4-of-8 in the fourth frame, had eight.
Point Pleasant — being fouled late by the Tigers — made 17-of-28 from the stripe, as Payne, Workman and Gibbs all made one apiece in the final period.
Point Pleasant also held Shady Spring scoreless for five minutes and 50 seconds in the second quarter, employing a zone defense that saw it score 14 unanswered on the other end.
Michael Holt had a field goal only 1:08 into the stanza, but the Tigers didn’t score again until a Keith Sexton trey with 62 seconds left — followed by Cole Honaker driving the lane for an old-fashioned three-point play at the buzzer.
Williams said it was the opposite approach from their initial meeting.
“The first time we played them, we manned them (played man-to-man defense), and they just lived in our paint all night long. We knew they had capable shooters from outside, but we knew they really liked to attack the paint. We wanted to take that away and make them one-dimensional. The defensive strategy was to take their penetration away, and I thought our zone really flustered them in the first half. We were willing to live with if they could make enough threes to beat us.”
And, Shady Spring almost did just that.
The Tigers continued to charge back in the second half, as they made four threes apiece in each of the final two cantos.
The final of those eight treys trimmed the deficit to 53-48 — combined with missed shots, missed free throws and careless turnovers by the Big Blacks.
“I thought we lost a little bit of energy on our defense for most of the second half. Our hands were down and we didn’t seem to have the urgency to get to shooters, which gave them looks,” said Williams.
But Point Pleasant finally stopped the bleeding, thanks to the two buckets from Payne to Rairden in a span of a minute and 10 seconds.
The Tigers endured one last late scoring drought of 2:53, and only got as close as 57-50 in the final 1:24.
“Our kids responded nicely there after they (Tigers) got it down to five. They could have easily folded the tent,” said Williams. “It was just a great team effort from all the kids.”
Payne scored six points on two first-half field goals and two free throws, while Henderson had five on two field goals and a free throw — all through the opening three quarters.
Honaker (15 points), Sexton (12 points), Logan Cook (11 points) and Holt (nine points) had at least nine points apiece for the Tigers, as Honaker and Sexton each scored five field goals along with four from Cook.
Honaker hit 3-of-4 first-half free throws, part of only 5-of-12 for the entire team.
Sexton, Honaker, Holt and Michael Guillians drilled two three-pointers apiece, while Cook canned one.
The Big Blacks return home, and return to action on Tuesday (Feb. 23), against Lincoln County.
That gives Point a full week to build confidence from Tuesday night’s triumph.
“Winning feels good. We’ve been pounding the point home that if we keep practicing and playing hard and just execute better, we’re finally going to get one (win). To get one puts some validity into what we’re saying,” said Williams.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106
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