McCarty named Tourney MVP as West Union claims title –
By Mark Carpenter –
New coach. New culture. New results. That is the mantra of the West Union boys basketball program this season and so far, all is well. For the first time since 2006, the Dragons collected the championship hardware of the annual McDonald’s Classic, with a title game victory over North Adams on Saturday, Dec. 30. A full house of West Union and North Adams fans filled the West Union gymnasium for the championship tilt, and got what they expected whenever two county rivals match up with bragging rights on the line, a close, hard-fought game with the Dragons holding on late to claim a 58-54 victory.
“Hats off to North Adams,” said West Union head coach Greg Himes in his post game interview. “Nathan Copas does a great job and his guys played a great game after coming off such a tough game yesterday. This win is great for our seniors who hadn’t won a game in this tournament in their first three seasons. Now they can say their legacy includes a McDonald’s Classic championship.”
“The kids have just responded to me so well and they all gave us great minutes tonight all the way down the line. They don’t question me they just go out and work really hard.”
The two teams advanced to the Classic finals in very different ways on the previous day, with the Green Devils pulling off a thrilling double overtime win over Peebles, while the Dragons rolled to a 29-point win over Manchester and it was the Dragons who struck first in the title contest, taking a quick 6-2 advantage on the strength of a pair of baskets by eventual tourney MVP Elijah McCarty.
The Devils have a weapon that many teams cannot combat in 6’3 sophomore Austin McCormick and the big man scored seven of the first nine North Adams points as the Devils battled back to lead 9-8. A three-pointer by Bowan Tomlin gave the lead back to the hosts and a later 7-0 run capped by a Garrett Vogler trey put West Union up 18-11. Two Michael Gill free throws and a stick back by McCormick sliced the Dragons’ lead to 18-15 at the end of the first quarter.
The Dragons opened period number two with seven straight, getting a McCarty three-point play and a three-pointer from Clayton Madden to bring their faithful to their feet and open up a double digit advantage. Madden drilled another “3” with 4:20 left in the half to make it 29-18 and the Dragons kept the long distance attack alive when Vogler hit a three to keep the lead at 11. The Devils took their turn from beyond the arc when Ryan Shupert dialed it up late in the half and sent the two team to the locker room with West Union up 34-24.
Momentum can wiggle its way from one side to another in a basketball game and during the halftime break, “mo” made his way over to the North Adams side and the Devils came out of the break with a vengeance, scoring the first 12 points of the third quarter to very quickly flip the scoreboard and take a 36-34 lead, holding the Dragons scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half.
The Dragons finally broke the ice with a Vogler three which began a 7-0 West Union run that gave the hose team a five-point advantage, but “mo” made another move to the North Adams side as the Devils finished the third period with a 6-0 spurt, fueled by an Elijah Young trey, to grab back the lead at 42-41 heading into the final eight minutes.
A pair of Young free throws began the fourth stanza, but the Dragons bounced back with a Vogler bucket and a “basket and one” from McCarty to go in front at 46-44. McCormick hit three free throws over the next two possessions to give the lead back to his side, before a clutch three-point play by Tomlin with 3:03 left began another 7-0 West Union run, giving the Dragons a six-point lead with just 1:35 to play.
North Adams got a pair from the stripe from Colt Shumaker to draw closer and then a Shupert trey with 31.3 seconds left cut the Dragons lead to 54-52. A pair of McCarty free throws put West Union back up by four and the Devils misfired on a three-pointer on their next trip. The Dragons’ Zane Kingsolver was fouled and missed both shots, leading to the Devils’ Dylan Ison scoring on a put back with 1.4 seconds to go. Kingsolver was quickly fouled again and this time came through, hitting both free throws to seal the deal on a 58-54 championship victory for West Union.
All season the Dragons have had a balanced scoring attack and the Saturday title win was no exception, as the champions placed four players in double figures, led by 19 points from Vogler, who was named to the Classic All-Tournament Team. Tourney MVP McCarty scored 13, with Madden and Tomlin adding 10 apiece.
“Garrett is a special player,” said Coach Himes. “He has been around for three years and this is so sweet for him to go out of this tournament as a winner. He’s a good, quiet kid who just gives us everything he’s got.”
“One of my goals when I took this job was to win this Classic and we accomplished that tonight.”
(The Dragons continued their winning ways on Tuesday, Jan. 2 with a 75-47 win over visiting Bethel-Tate, improving their record to 6-3 on the season.)
For North Adams (3-6), McCormick and Shupert were named to the All-Tournament Team and led the team in scoring in the title game with 21 and 14 points respectively.
15 9 18 12 –54
18 16 7 17 –58
N. Adams (54): Shupert 5 1-2 14, Ison 2 1-2 5, E. Young 2 2-2 7, Shumaker 1 3-4 5, Gill 0 2-2 2, McCormick 7 7-10 21, Team 17 16-22 54.
W. Union (58): Rothwell 1 0-0 2, Vogler 6 4-7 19, McCarty 4 5-6 13, Madden 3 2-4 10, Tomlin 3 3-3 10, Kingsolver 1 2-6 4, Team 18 16-26 58.
N. Adams (4): Shupert 3, E. Young 1
W. Union (6): Vogler 3, Madden 2, Tomlin 1