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WVSSAC CLASS AA BOYS BASKETBALL STATE TOURNAMENT — FINAL: Williamstown’s role players come up big in title game win

Williamstown’s Baylor Haught cuts down a piece of the net during the Yellowjackets’ state championship celebration. Haught was a key piece to the Yellowjackets’ run to and win in the title game. Photo by Jay W. Bennett

CHARLESTON — Williamstown’s 50-47 Class AA state championship victory on Saturday against Poca was one for the ages.

In a two-year span, head coach Scott Sauro’s Yellowjackets went 41-2 and also won consecutive Little Kanawha Conference crowns.

Along with a three-point setback last year to Fort Frye and a one-point loss this spring to Greenbrier West, Williamstown won every other game in that span aside from four by double figures.

For the second straight campaign, WHS will graduate five seniors and that includes 5-foot-9 guard Ryan Wager, who averaged better than seven points a game, but didn’t get to see the floor in the title tilt.

That was of little concern to the team player.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Wager admitted. “It’s been a rollercoaster. You know, it’s been amazing. We’ve been training ever since January, getting ready for this moment.

“It’s just amazing to be here. It was just crazy. We always dreamed of this moment. Even now, it’s crazy it happened.”

The Yellowjackets held a 28-9 halftime lead versus the Dots and pushed ahead by as many as 21 early in the third before Poca cut it to two at 40-38 with 4:38 to go in the fourth. Although the Dots had it within one at 46-45 with 1:40 remaining, the ‘Jackets finished the job and led wire to wire.

Point guard Garret Hill said the first half start was definitely one of the keys.

“Once we start hitting shots, you got Sam (Cremeans) and ‘X’ (Xavier Caruthers) and we are kind of unstoppable when we start hitting shots,” said the senior. “We prepped for them all morning and last night. Everyone in the gym knows who he (Virginia commit Isaac McKneely) is.

“Great player and shout out to him. We rebounded the ball really well. They got the Payne (Toby and Ethan) brothers and they are super strong. We boxed out really good in the first half which kept them to nine points.”

Baylor Haught, who pulled down a game-high dozen caroms, was a big factor in the Yellowjackets holding a 38-32 edge on the glass.

“Those are definitely the best rebounders I’ve gone against all year. It was a fight, all 32 minutes,” said a smiling Haught in the postgame interview.

“I wish they (last year’s seniors) could’ve experienced this. I wish they could’ve been here. I wish we would’ve had that chance last year.”

Sauro, now in his 17th year, was shocked when he looked at the stat sheet and saw his team’s match-up zone defense limited McKneely to a dozen points, which included zero in the first half on eight shot attempts, five from deep.

“Our guys run the zone pretty well and I thought they did a great job finding McKneely,” he said. “What did he have, 12 points? Is that right? Good job fellows. What a job by our guys. Their run seemed like it lasted an awful long time, but they ran out of time. I don’t know what would’ve happened if the game would’ve lasted another two minutes. ,”

“I’d like to think we would’ve won it, but hey, 32 minutes and we’re happy to be here. To win against that coach (Allen Osborne), who I think is as good as anybody in the state, and against that player, who is as good as anyone in the state, I think makes this even sweeter because we have so much respect for them.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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