’Jackets hold on to defeat Tolsia, 64-59

Photo Provided The Williamstown High boys basketball team defeated Tolsia Thursday in a Class A regional co-final

FORT GAY — Williamstown head coach Scott Sauro knew Thursday night’s Class A, Region IV co-final at Tolsia wasn’t going to be easy.

Thanks to a solid all-around team performance and some clutch foul shooting, the Yellowjackets knocked off the host Rebels from Wayne County, 64-59, to punch their ticket to the state tournament for the first time since 2015.

Cullen Cutright and Eli Inman led the way for the 19-6 ‘Jackets with 18 points apiece.

“We feel really good about it for us to go down there and play those guys in that environment,” said Sauro, whose club jumped out to an 8-1 lead and looked to be in trouble trailing 48-40 late in the third. “It was the wildest environment these kids have probably ever played in.

“They’ve played in some big games, but that was the craziest environment we’ve played in. For them to go down there and weather the storm and beat a really good team, the sectional champ, I’m just really proud of the guys right now.”

One of the biggest moments of the affair came with the Rebels (16-8) holding for the last shot of the third quarter to potentially go up by double digits. However, Boston Caruthers made a steal and drained a buzzer-beating 3.

“He got that steal and hit that 3 with a hand in his face,” Sauro stated. “It was just to the right of the top of the key as time expired. It was an unbelievable shot to cut it to five. It was a big momentum builder for us.”

Tolsia, which had a nine-game home winning streak snapped, got double figure scoring efforts from Rob Cantrell (15), Austin Salmons (14) and Jacob Mollette (12). Leading scorer Jesse Muncy was limited to just two points. He had no field goals and went 2 of 4 from the charity stripe.

“Boston Caruthers put on one of the best individual defensive performances that I’ve had a player put on in 15 years,” admitted the coach. “Their leading scorer who is averaging about 20 points a game had just two points. He wasn’t missing a lot of shots. He wasn’t getting them. Boston Caruthers just did an amazing job defensively, just an unbelievable performance on the defensive end.

“Everybody else did their part for us to win that game. Eli had some big rebounds for us and he went 5 of 5 at the line. Trent Lynch hit two big 3s for us and Xavier (Caruthers) had three 3s. Baylor Haught was playing good defense and doing his thing. It was a good team win and everybody stepped up and made a few plays for us to win it in the second half.”

Despite trailing 48-43 entering the fourth, WHS used a 21-11 advantage in the final eight minutes to get the victory.

Tied at 57-all with 53 seconds remaining, it was a pair of Inman foul shots which gave the visitors the lead for good. Boston Caruthers drained a pair of freebies with 28.9 to go, which made it 61-57.

Another huge key late for WHS was Cutright blocking a shot inside, which would’ve made it a one-possession affair. However, Haught made one foul shot following the stuff to push the cushion to 62-57. Following a Tolsia deuce to close the gap back to three, Inman calmly sank two more free throws to set the final score.

“Thrilled to death,” Sauro continued. “Look, we had a lot of reasons to kind of fold when it was 48-40. A lot of things weren’t going our way. They were on a run and the crowd was going crazy.

“These guys in the past and other teams have folded in this scenario, but they didn’t. They showed a heckuva lot of toughness, fought through that and finished the game. Just proud of the effort.”

Boston Caruthers finished with 10 points and Xavier Caruthers had nine.

Williamstown earned the No. 7 seed and now will take on defending state champion and No. 2 seed Wheeling Central at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the state quarterfinals at Charleston.

“Obviously, we are excited to be at the state tournament, but we want to go there and have a chance to win,” Sauro added.

“If you talk to any coach they’d say the same thing. We have to really work hard to give these guys a game plan that will make it competitive and I think they are going to be excited to practice.”