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WVSSAC CLASS AA BOYS BASKETBALL STATE TOURNAMENT — FINAL: Yellowjackets Crowned

Williamstown survives late rally from Poca, 50-47

Williamstown’s Garret Hill works against Poca’s Kambel Meeks during the Yellowjackets’ 50-47 Class AA state championship game win over the Dots Saturday in the Charleston Coliseum. Photo by Jay W. Bennett

CHARLESTON — The Williamstown basketball team and its five seniors finally ran down their dream Saturday afternoon as the Yellowjackets survived a furious second-half rally from Poca to claim the school’s second ever state crown following a 50-47 triumph versus the Dots in the Class AA state championship game.

Second-seeded Poca (13-5) couldn’t find an answer for the match-up zone of the Yellowjackets in the first half. The Dots missed their first nine field goal attempts and trailed 11-0.

Sam Cremeans, who like teammate Gavin Bosgraf had to change his jersey because of blood, opened the scoring with a trey in front of the Poca sideline 2:04 in for part of his game-high 20 counters.

A Bosgraf lay-in followed and then Xavier Caruthers (14 points) and Baylor Haught (seven points, game-high 12 boards) drained 3s before Poca finally got on the scoreboard via a steal and layup from Kambel Meeks, who finished with nine points and a game-high five thefts.

No. 1 WHS, which won its first state title since 1962 when the ‘Jackets defeated Chatteroy 60-53 for the single-A crown, led 13-4 after one and appeared to be in complete control when Bosgraf hit a contested corner 3 to beat the first-half buzzer for a 28-9 cushion.

Photo provided The Williamstown Yellowjackets’ boys basketball team celebrates with the state championship trophy after surviving a late rally from Poca and winning the Class AA state championship 50-47 Saturday afternoon inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

“I thought that we came out with a lot of confidence,” admitted 17th-year ‘Jacket boss Scott Sauro, whose 17-1 club held state player of the year candidate Isaac McKneely to 4 of 22 shooting and a dozen points. “We talked yesterday about having no fear.

“We talked about playing with no fear and they played, in my opinion, with no fear. Obviously, I thought our shooting early was great in the first half. Hitting a 3 at halftime with Gavin Bosgraf, who doesn’t really shoot 3s, that kind of stuff helps.”

Caruthers opened the second half by scoring the first seven ‘Jacket points, which included a deep trifecta at the 4:44 mark for a 35-14 bulge and the biggest lead of the affair.

Following a McKneely steal and layup, though, Bosgraf was called for a charge he took exception to as Meeks drew the foul and some jawing ensued. That led to a Bosgraf technical foul and breathed life into the Dots.

“Credit to him. He played well, sold it and got their team back on a run,” Bosgraf admitted. “He said it first. I just retaliated.

“Bad on my part. You always get called on the second one. You can’t retaliate.”

The Dots used 3s by Meeks and Jackson Toney to eventually get the lead to single digits at 37-28, but Cremeans drained a trifecta with four ticks remaining to push it back to a dozen.

Poca’s press continued to cause the ‘Jackets havoc in the fourth quarter. In fact, Williamstown didn’t even make a field goal in the final eight minutes, missing all five of its attempts, but went 10 of 13 from the line in the fourth to help secure the triumph.

McKneely’s short kiss had the Dots within two at 40-38 with 4:38 to go. However, Cremeans made four free throws and Caruthers added two more to push it back to eight with 2:13 left.

McKneely swished one in from downtown with 1:57 remaining and following a WHS five-second call, McKneely skied into the air and stroked another 3 to make it 46-44 at the 1:42 mark.

Meeks had a chance to tie it just two seconds later at the foul line following another WHS turnover, but only converted one attempt.

Bosgraf’s two freebies made it 48-45 with 77 seconds left, but Toney, who double-doubled with 10 points and as many caroms, misfired on a 3 to tie it. McKneely also had a jumper and a lay-in attempt which wouldn’t fall inside the final minute.

Haught proceeded to all but ice the game with the clock showing 0:15 when he calmly sank a pair of charity stripe tosses. Ethan Payne, who had 12 points and nine rebounds, converted a bucket underneath prior to the final horn to set the score.

“Just this group of guys, it’s so special,” said Haught, who was joined on the all-tournament team by Caruthers, Cremeans and fellow Little Kanawha Conference hoopster Ethan Haught of Ritchie County along with Payne, McKneely and Charleston Catholic teammates Aiden Satterfield and Zion Suddeth.

Despite holding the big lead at intermission, Cremeans knew they had to stay together for all 32 minutes.

“Just staying focused throughout the entire game,” he said. “I knew going into it it was the biggest game of my career so far, so like coming down to the line (end of game) if it comes down to shooting free throws at the end I wanted to stick them and do what it takes for my team.

“It’s unbelievable. We wanted this since last year and we didn’t get the chance and the opportunity to come here last year and now we did and we were able to take it home. I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

Shortly after cutting the net down, Caruthers was asked if he could put what just transpired into some perspective.

“They came out strong in that second half and we just had to maintain where we were at,” said the senior, who played his last game alongside Cremeans, Haught, point guard Garret Hill and Ryan Wager.

“It’s unreal. It still doesn’t feel real winning this. We haven’t had a state championship at our school in almost 60 years. It’s just insane.”

Cremeans, Caruthers and Hill, who had four rebounds, an assist and the ‘Jackets’ lone steal, each played the entire game.

“We struggled a lot with the pressure, but all in all we still won the game and that’s all that matters,” exclaimed and elated Hill. “I’m so excited right now. It’s great, 1962 now 2021, state champs. It’s done.”

Poca was limited to 29% (18 of 62) from the floor and the ‘Jackets went 14 of 34 (41.2%). The Dots managed a plus-12 margin on points in the paint and held a 15-2 advantage in points off turnovers, but it wasn’t quite enough.

“We were the number one seed last year when the COVID thing hit and I felt terrible for the seniors we had last year — Eli Inman, Peyton Amrine, Colten Luther, Isaac Cutright and Brandon Kiger,” added coach Sauro, who was honored as the 2019-20 NFHS Coach of the Year earlier in the day. “Those kids really wanted this opportunity and I’m not kidding.

“I’m not sure we get the one seed this year without the effort those guys had last year because they played like we’re supposed to play basketball and it’s carried onto this group. I know we’ve got five seniors this year, but this win is also for those five kids who graduated last year. We hate they didn’t get the opportunity. To not have the opportunity was devastating to us. These kids made the most of this opportunity.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsansentinel.com

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