Nitro ends Big Blacks’ season


By Paul Boggs - pboggs@civitasmedia.com



Point Pleasant’s Bradley Gibbs (23) goes up for a shot between four Nitro defenders during Monday night’s boys basketball Class AAA sectional tournament game at Nitro High School.


Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

NITRO, W. Va. — Unfortunately for the Big Blacks — in seemingly one fell swoop — they got impatient, got too far behind, and ultimately got eliminated on Monday night.

Blitzed by a 27-11 run by the host Nitro Wildcats over a span of 10 minutes and 47 seconds, Point Pleasant’s boys basketball season came to an end with a 70-55 Class AAA sectional tournament loss.

The Big Blacks, which endured a 13-game losing streak from Dec. 29 thru Feb. 16, had actually won two of their last three regular-season contests — prior to Monday night’s sectional tilt.

Point Pleasant ends its campaign at 4-19, while Nitro — which also swept the regular-season meetings against the Big Blacks — improved to 8-15.

Point was done in by being outscored 56-37 over the final three quarters, including a decisive 20-8 second stanza that turned the tide the Wildcats’ way.

Eleven unanswered points by the Big Blacks in three-and-a-half minutes gave them a 15-7 lead at the 2:47 mark of the first quarter, but that’s when things went awry.

The Wildcats went off for 27 points for the remainder of the half, knocking down four three-point goals in the process — and putting Point into a hole that only grew deeper in the fourth quarter.

With the Wildcats sinking 13-of-17 free throws in the fourth, their lead swoon swelled to 14 three times (62-48, 65-51, 67-53) before finally reaching their largest lead of the 70-55 final score.

But PPHS coach Josh Williams said the game got away from the Big Blacks during the stretch of 10:47.

“We needed to be more patient. I thought we kept the ball on one side and settled for quick shots,” said Williams. “We just didn’t get the defense to shift and move and open up some gaps for us. That was due to being impatient during that stretch.”

Doug Workman, with 32 seconds left in the opening quarter, drove the lane and scored on an old-fashioned three-point play to put Point Pleasant up 18-11.

But over the next six-and-a-half minutes, the Wildcats ripped off a 17-2 spurt, jump-started by a Ryan Eary three-pointer from the corner with five seconds left in the first period.

Bradley Gibbs’ baseline drive and score for the Big Blacks made it 20-18, but that was their final lead — as Andrew Mahairas had a three-point play to put Nitro in front for good with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter.

Williams discussed the Wildcats being able to pierce Point Pleasant’s 2-3 zone.

“We lost track of some shooters. Just being fundamentally sound and getting out there and closing out with hands up,” he said. “We knew going in they were going to make some threes. We did pretty good early, but then we started struggling with the dribble-handoffs and stuff. We made an adjustment to start switching, because we were trailing a lot of those handoffs. But that gave them open lanes to the basket.”

Austin Woodrum, Nolan Woodrum and Mahairas hit threes in the second , while the Big Blacks endured a pair of scoring droughts of at least two minutes and 53 seconds.

From Workman’s field goal and free throw until Gibbs’ goal, Point failed to score for 4:12.

Point Pleasant’s only other points in the second quarter were a Cason Payne three at 1:37, another Workman free throw with 59 seconds left, and another Gibbs basket 24 seconds later.

Williams was frustrated with the Big Blacks’ often empty offensive possessions, either on missed shots or poor passes turned turnovers.

Point trailed between two and eight points throughout the third period, including twice getting to within two (38-36 and 40-38) on a pair of putbacks by Trace Derenberger.

His second was with 2:05 left in the canto, as Gibbs’ three-ball for a 41-40 lead rimmed out, followed by two more turnovers and two more made Nitro field goals over the final 1:25.

“Those were big momentum swings,” said Williams. “If we knock down that three, and we get a couple of more shots, then we have momentum on our side. Instead, we missed that three and compounded it with a couple of turnovers. It just took a toll on us from there.”

After Nolan Woodrum drained the Wildcats’ final of six treys with 32 seconds gone by in the fourth, the Big Blacks got no closer than 53-47 with 5:14 to play.

The Wildcat clincher came with 4:38 remaining, when Nitro’s Michael Martin made the first of two foul shots, then was not boxed out by Point Pleasant — and easily got his own stickback for another basket.

“That was another huge momentum-killer right there,” said Williams.

For the final four-and-a-half minutes, Point never got within single digits again.

Nitro had four players place in double figures, paced by Joel Sweat’s 16 points, as he hit the game’s opening field goal on a three-pointer — and ended his night by making 5-of-6 fourth-quarter foul shots.

Sweat finished with five field goals, as Eary added 13 points (4-of-4 free throws) and Mahairas (3-of-3 free throws) and Austin Woodrum (3-of-4 free throws) wound up with a dozen points apiece.

Eary, Mahairas and Woodrum each scored four field goals, while Martin mustered three for seven points.

Gibbs, in his final game for Point Pleasant, paced the Big Blacks with a game-high 21 points — 16 of which were in the second half.

He had eight total field goals, including all three of his threes in the final two quarters.

Payne posted 12 points on three field goals and 5-of-6 free throws, while Workman (three field goals and 2-of-3 free throws) and Derenberger (four field goals) scored eight points apiece .

Trey Tucker tallied two first-quarter field goals, while he and Parker Rairden split a pair of fourth-quarter free throws.

It was the final game for four Big Black seniors: Gibbs, Tucker, Brandon Henderson and Jason Sayre.

“I’ve had this group of kids (seniors) all four years and it’s a good group of kids,” said Williams. “One of our goals coming into this year was to be more competitive in games. We competed in a lot of games this year whereas last year, there were a lot of blowouts.”

Williams was optimistic about the program’s future, especially considering Point will drop down in class next season to AA.

“We have a lot of kids coming back next year, so it’s just the commitment to the offseason and staying hungry,” he said. “I’ve got high expectations for these kids. Dropping down (to AA) is going to help us some with our scheduling, but there’s still going to be some challenges and it’s still a grind. That said, I’m really excited about the group coming back.”

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Point Pleasant’s Bradley Gibbs (23) goes up for a shot between four Nitro defenders during Monday night’s boys basketball Class AAA sectional tournament game at Nitro High School.
http://mydailysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_2-29-PP-Gibbs.jpgPoint Pleasant’s Bradley Gibbs (23) goes up for a shot between four Nitro defenders during Monday night’s boys basketball Class AAA sectional tournament game at Nitro High School. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs

pboggs@civitasmedia.com

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