MASON, W.Va. — Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.
Ten days after losing a fourth quarter lead in a 53-46 setback at Wahama, third-year Hannan boys basketball coach Ross Thornton guaranteed a victory if the two teams met again in the postseason.
That prediction, however, did not come close to fruition Tuesday night as the host White Falcons scored the first 13 points and never looked back during a 64-35 victory in a Class A Region 4, Section 2 play-in contest at Gary Clark Court in Mason County.
The fourth-seeded White Falcons (9-14) shot 73 percent from the field through three periods of play and led all but 3:12 of regulation by double digits, allowing the hosts to roll into Thursday night’s semifinal matchup with top-seeded Huntington Saint Joseph Central at Nitro High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The fifth-seeded Wildcats (6-15) came up empty in their first nine offensive possessions, which resulted in five turnovers and four missed shots over the opening five minutes of regulation. WHS, conversely, hit 7-of-10 shots and committed only two turnovers en route to a 17-4 cushion through eight minutes of play.
The Red and White followed by going 9-of-12 from the floor as part of an 18-12 second quarter run, allowing the hosts to secure a 35-16 advantage at the break. Wahama then netted 8-of-11 field goal attempts in the third canto as part of a 17-10 run that made it 52-26 headed into the finale.
The White Falcons closed the fourth with a 12-9 run and claimed their largest lead of the game at 64-33 following a basket by Mason Hicks with 2:47 left in regulation.
Wahama finished the night by shooting 59 percent from the field and forced 15 Hannan turnovers while committing only eight itself. HHS, on the other hand, netted only 38 percent of its field goal tries.
After watching his troops dominate both ends of the floor, third-year WHS coach Ron Bradley thought that the early defensive intensity allowed everything else to flow smoothly Tuesday night. He also noted that even more of the same will be needed when they face the Fighting Irish in 48 hours.
“They came out and shot the ball extremely well against us from the three-point line the first time we played, so tonight we just wanted to come out and get in their face and not allow any open looks,” Bradley said. “I thought our kids really did a good job of that early on and everything else just stemmed from that.
“We’ll need to match the patience, effort and intensity that we had tonight when we face Saint Joe Thursday because we are going to have to play our very best to beat a fantastic team like that.”
For Thornton, the outcome was a humbling experience — although he did acknowledge that Wahama was better in all phases of the game Tuesday night.
The Hannan mentor obviously did not like the way things ended for his seniors — Isaiah Burgess and Cole Poore — but did note that the future is looking bright for his program.
“They just came out and punched us right in the face, and we never recovered,” Thornton said. “We’ve made some strides this year, but it didn’t work out for us tonight. Honestly, we got out-hustled, out-played and probably out-coached. We’ll just have to pick up the pieces and move on to improving next year.
“We hate to see things end for the seniors this way, because they’ve been a big part of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a program during their time here. We will, however, have a lot of people returning with experience, so things can be better for us next year.”
Wahama hit four of its first five shots at the start, then Ryan Thomas canned a trifecta at the 4:48 mark that gave the hosts a permanent double-digit edge at 11-0.
A Burgess field goal on Hannan’s 10th possession made it 13-2 with 2:43 left, but the White Falcons closed the first period on a small 4-2 run for a 17-4 cushion.
The Wildcats committed only one turnover and made 5-of-9 shots in the second frame, but never came closer than 13 points (29-16) with 1:17 left in the first half. WHS closed the second stanza with a 6-0 run to lead by 19 at the break.
The Red and White doubled their lead out to 52-26 headed into the fourth before ultimately cooling off down the stretch with a 5-of-16 effort from the field. HHS, conversely, went just 2-of-8 from the floor and had four turnovers to close things out.
The White Falcons finished the night 29-of-49 overall from the field, including a 4-of-9 effort from three-point range for 44 percent. The hosts hauled in 25 rebounds, including five offensive boards, and also went 2-of-7 at the free throw line for 29 percent.
Philip Hoffman led Wahama with a game-high 24 points, followed by Thomas with 12 points and Hicks with 11 markers. Noah Litchfield was next with eight points, while Nolan Pierce and Travis Kearns rounded out the winning tally with six and three points.
Hoffman and Litchfield also led the White Falcons with five rebounds apiece.
The Blue and White connected on 14-of-37 shot attempts overall, including a 3-of-8 effort from behind the arc for 38 percent. The guests hauled in 22 rebounds, including five offensive boards, and also went 4-of-10 at the free throw line for 40 percent.
Burgess led HHS with 10 points, followed by Malachi Cade with eight points and Corey Hudnall with seven markers. Chase Nelson and Dalton Coleman respectively wrapped things up with six and four points.
Nelson grabbed a game-high eight rebounds in the setback.
It was the final game for Wahama seniors Hicks, Thomas and Nolan Pierce at Gary Clark Court, and Bradley was very proud that his upperclassmen got to go out a winner at home.
“I’m glad the seniors were able to enjoy their final home game in a such a positive way,” Bradley said. “We’ve battled through a lot of ups and downs this season in this gym, but they’ve hung in with us. It’s good to see that hard work pay off for them tonight.”
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.