It was a shining moment for a group of Wyoming East seniors who felt they had something to prove.
The Warriors beat a hot Westside team, 70-62, to win the AA Region 3, Section 1 championship at the Beckley Raleigh County Armory.
“All five starters are seniors,” said guard Corey McKinney, who had 17 points in the win. “But only one of us started last year and the rest of us did not play a lot. People doubted us, and it feels great to prove them them wrong.”
East (14-10) won its first sectional title since 2012 and will host Shady Spring on Wednesday in a Region 3 cofinal. Westside (16-8) will play at Bluefield that same night.
McKinney hit two threes in a minute span which helped the Warriors stretch a 48-46 lead to 56-48 with less than three minutes to play.
“They were coming back on us and we needed to get the momentum back,” said McKinney.
“We always tell McKinney and (Jon) Sims to shoot if they’re open and it’s a situation where we need it,” said Warriors coach Derek Brooks.
After shooting from distance for most of the first half—all 15 of their first quarter points came from three—East changed ta tactics in the second half.
“We were taking to many threes in the first half,” said forward Dylan Brehm. “The coaches told us at the half to start taking it to the rim.”
Trailing 32-27 at the break, the Warriors started the third period with a 10-0 run and held the Renegades scoreless for over five minutes.
“Defense is where it starts,” Brooks commented.
East took the lead for good, 34-32, on a Logan Mullins lay up with 5:45 showing.
Westside cut the margin to two on several occasions but never tied it.
The Warriors held a 46-37 margin early in the fourth, their biggest lead of the night
WHS answered with seven quick points and closed the gapto 46-44 on foul shots by Shane Jenkins.
At 48-46, McKinney hit a three from the right wing and Zach Cook scored on a put back.
“Zach was a monster tonight,” Brooks said.
“I gave 110 percent on every play,” Cook remarked.
McKinney made it 56-48 with another trey at the 2:48 mark.
The Renegades closed to 56-53 on a steal and lay up by Jenkins.
Cook scored off a dish from Sims and Brehm converted a three-point play to make 61-53 with 59.2 ticks to go.
Westside’s Isaiah Lester was fouled on a three attempt and made it 62-59 when he made all three foul shots.
Sims and Brehem each went 2-2 for at the stripe to help seal the win. East was 10-12 at the line in the final minute.
“This is the first time this year I thought we played four good quarters,” Brooks stated.
Renegades coach Shawn Jenkins said he thought his team was awed by the occasion at times.
“Even though we had a five-point lead at halftime, I didn’t think we played that well,” he commented.
“At times we lost focus on what we were trying to accomplish,” Jenkins remarked.
Sims scored 19, and McKinney had 17 for the Warriors. Brehm (15) and Cook (11) were also in double digits.
Jenkins had 22 for Westside, and Isaiah Lester had 14 despite foul trouble.
Coach Jenkins said several players, including Broc Smith, Travis Cook, Hunter Walters and Kenneth Bledsoe, came off the bench to give the team good minutes.
East will host a regional for the first time since 2012.
“I feel confident,” Logan Mullins said.
Shane Jenkins says there is a bright side for his club. “We’re still alive and we’re going to play a team we’ve beaten,” he pointed out.
Game notes: East has a 22-21 edge in the series now.
John Conley can be reached at 304-732-6060 or on Twitter @PIHnews.