By Shawn Stinson
The memory of the 2021 West Virginia Class A boys basketball championship contest still stings in the minds of Pendleton County fans.
The contest was a clash of styles between Pendleton and heavily favored Man. The Wildcats preferred low-scoring games, while the Hillbillies wanted to run up and down the court. Pendleton ended up getting the style of play it wanted and the game will be remembered as a classic.
The staff at Metro News are remembering several classic games at the state tournament. The first contests selected were the Pendleton-Man clash, as well as the DuPont-Martinsburg contest for the 1994 Class AAA championship.
The DuPont squad featured three well-known players – Randy Moss, future NFL Hall of Fame member; Jason Williams, who starred in the NBA; and Bobbie Howard, who played in the NFL. Martinsburg pulled off the upset and knocked off DuPont, 79-73, in the title tilt.
The 2021 season marked the first season of the four-class system in West Virginia. The season was shortened due to COVID-19 and did not begin until March. The season was jammed into two months with the state tournament set for May in Charleston.
Pendleton had reeled off 19 consecutive victories to advance to the championship contest. Pendleton, the No. 3 seed, posted a 59-45 victory against Greenbrier West, the No. 6 seed, in the quarterfinals. Pendleton slipped past Tug Valley, the No. 2 seed, 38-35 in the semifinals to set up the matchup with Man for the championship.
Man, the No. 1 seed, rolled to a 40-point victory against Tucker County, the No. 8 seed, in the quarterfinals. Man continued to breeze into the Class A title contest by blasting Webster County, the No. 4 seed, 81-54.
The Wildcats led 36-32 with less than 2:30 remaining in the contest and appeared set to claim the school’s first basketball title. Man responded by closing out the game on a 11-0 run to capture the crown. The Hillbillies closed out the contest with an Austin Ball slam dunk.
“We made a few boneheaded plays and it cost us,” said then Pendleton coach Ryan Lambert.
Josh Alt, Bailey Thompson and Tanner Townsend from Pendleton were named to the all-tournament teams. Four players – Peyton Adams, Caleb Blevins, Jackson Tackett and Ball – from Man were selected to the all-tournament squad.