NITRO, W.Va. — Explosive … much as you’d expect from a top-seeded team named Nitro.
The Point Pleasant boys basketball team had its remarkable 2018-19 campaign come to an emphatic close on Thursday night as the host Wildcats led wire-to-wire and had six players reach double figures during an 86-45 victory in a Class AA Region IV, Section 1 semifinal at Alumni Arena.
Nitro (16-7) stormed out to a quick 5-0 lead 42 seconds into regulation, but the fourth-seeded Big Blacks (8-16) countered with a 6-2 surge over the next minute and a half while closing to within 7-6 with 5:49 remaining.
Point, however, missed its final 10 shot attempts of the first quarter, and NHS countered with 21 consecutive points that allowed the hosts to take a 28-6 cushion through eight minutes of play.
The Big Blacks ended a 6:33 scoreless drought with a Braxton Yates basket 45 seconds into the second frame, then Hunter Bush tacked on a trifecta 30 seconds later that whittled the deficit down to 28-11 with 6:44 left in the half.
PPHS was ultimately never closer, and the Wildcats closed the final six-plus minutes with a 26-7 charge that resulted in a commanding 54-18 halftime advantage.
Nitro was near unconscious in the opening 16 minutes of play, making 21-of-37 field goal attempts for 57 percent. The hosts were also 8-of-19 from behind the arc during that span.
Point Pleasant, conversely, netted only 6-of-27 field goal tries before halftime — including a 5-of-21 effort from 3-point range. The Big Blacks also trailed 24-10 on the boards, including an 8-3 discrepancy on the offensive glass.
The Wildcats took their largest lead of the night at 68-22 on an Andrew Mahairas trifecta at the 3:45 mark of the third. Point closed the stanza with a 10-5 run and pulled to within 73-32 entering the finale.
Both teams scored 13 points apiece down the stretch to wrap up 41-point outcome.
Nitro advances to face Poca in the Class AA Region IV, Section 1 final after the Dots claimed a 44-43 win over Winfield on Thursday night.
PPHS coach Josh Williams noted afterwards that Nitro was everything that one should expect from a senior-laden squad that holds the top seed in the bracket.
He also believed, given the Wildcats’ effectiveness from behind the 3-point line, that his troops could very well be sitting where Nitro currently is a year from now. The difference will come down to the work they put in this offseason.
“We knew we were facing a tough task after watching film and they are the number one seed in this region for a reason. There’s a lot more to Nitro than just a couple of good players to focus on. They have some talented players, good shooters and some depth too. They do a lot of things well … and we were just on our heels all night long,” Williams said. “They represent where we want our basketball program to get. We had a positive year and accomplished some things that we wanted to accomplish, and we have good core scheduled to be back next year. We have a chance to have something special next year, but it’s going to take a lot more hard work between now and then to make that possible. We cannot be satisfied with where our skill set is right now … we need to keep improving.”
Point Pleasant’s top three scorers — all of whom average double digits — are underclassmen, so seeing the program go from three wins a year ago to eight now is encouraging with that type of firepower coming back.
It was, however, the final basketball game in the Red and Black for seniors Jordan Daubenmire, Evan Cobb and Bradyn Canterbury.
Williams noted that the trio left a positive mark on the program and that they should all be proud of what their leadership and experience has meant to this squad’s resurgence.
“Not every class gets to celebrate championships and those type of things, but our three seniors can take a lot of pride in knowing that they helped us get this program jump-started. We more than doubled our win total and won our first tournament game in a few years, so those are things that their leadership brought to the table,” Williams said. “It may take a few years for them to realize what they’ve helped establish here, but they can definitely hold their heads up and take some pride in their time with the program. These guys have played a big part in our future successes.”
Nitro outrebounded the guests by a sizable 52-31 overall margin, including an 18-12 edge on the offensive glass. Point also committed 10 of the 18 turnovers in the contest, which also featured 88 combined 3-point attempts.
The Big Blacks — who won six of their final 10 contests — netted 17-of-65 field goal attempts for 26 percent, including a 10-of-46 effort from behind the arc for 22 percent. The guests were also 1-of-4 at the free throw line for 25 percent.
Bush led PPHS with 14 points and Aidan Sang followed with 13 points, with Yates adding eight points and a team-high eight rebounds. Canterbury chipped in four markers, while Kyelar Morrow and Trey Peck completed things with three points each.
Daubenmire and Canterbury hauled in four rebounds apiece. Bush, Sang and Damon Thompson also grabbed three boards each in the setback.
The Wildcats made 32-of-72 shot attempts for 44 percent overall, including a 15-of-42 effort from behind the arc for 36 percent. NHS was also 4-of-7 at the charity stripe for 57 percent.
Brady Jones paced the Wildcats with 14 points, with Zander Schmitt and Joel Sweat each contributing 13 markers. Kolton Painter and Zane Brooks followed with 11 points apiece, while Mahairas also added 10 points.
Joey Buckalew and Jonathan Brooks were next with six markers each and Trevor Lowe completed things winning tally with two points. Buckalew grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for the hosts, who produced all but 13 points from their senior class.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.