South Charleston boys basketball coach Bobby Dawson completed his 24th year on the Black Eagles’ bench and fourth state championship game without a title.
“I can talk forever about the luck I’ve had,” said Dawson, whose had five teams since 2002 qualify for the state tournament but fail to win a title. “They kicked my point guard out of school the first time we played Huntington (in the 2007 state title game), guys got hurt, guys got sick.”
Truth be known, the 2007 championship game pitted the Eagles against O.J. Mayo-led and nationally-ranked Huntington, which defeated South Charleston 103-61 – marking the first time since 1977 a team scored triple digits in the Class AAA title game.
“It takes a lot of luck really,” said Dawson, whose last three teams lost to three different schools in the final – Huntington in 2007, Beckley in 2008 and Martinsburg last Saturday. “I think last year Beckley did a great job. They beat No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 (South Charleston). That’s pretty daggone tough.”
Luck certainly played a role in the Black Eagles’ losing this year. State Player of the Year Aaron Dobson – in the first two tournament games – was a combined 22-of-35 from the field overall, 11-of-20 from 3-point range, 8-of-12 from the free throw line and had 10 assists and nine rebounds.
In the championship, Dobson was only 4-of-14 and hit only two 3-pointers. Still, his final one came in the final 20 seconds to give South Charleston a 52-51 lead.
On the ensuing Martinsburg possession, the Bulldogs’ top player, Isaac Thornton, was fouled by Dobson, fouling out the Black Eagles’ best player and sending Thornton to the line to shoot two free throws.
His two foul shots with five seconds left gave Martinsburg the title.
After South Charleston missed a pair of close, desperation shots, Dawson saw another title shot go wayward.
“It weighs on me somewhat,” Dawson admitted. “I think we’ve worked hard, my kids worked hard, we work year around. We practice hard.”
South Charleston has played in 11 state tournaments since Dawson took over before the 1985-86 season. Dawson has a 10-10 state tournament record, but 0-4 championship game mark.
However, after a season prior to which he suffered a heart attack and had other health problems, the question remains: is he running out of chances?
“I don’t think so,” Dawson said. “I have a good group coming back and we have good junior high kids coming in. South Charleston will be good whether I’m there or not.”
The MARTINSBURG victory gives the Bulldogs their second title – they won the 1994 championship over a DuPont team led by current New England Patriots’ wide receiver Randy Moss and former NBA point guard Jason Williams.
Martinsburg has reached the state tournament seven times since 2000, and has a 7-5 record during that time.
RAVENSWOOD coach Mick Price has won more than 500 games during his career on the Red Devils’ bench, but had won only one championship – the 2006 Class AA title – before Saturday when Ravenswood defeated two-time defending champion Wyoming East.
The title was a shot in the arm for the Ravenswood community – roughly 3,900 strong – which lost about 650 jobs when Century Aluminum closed.
“We’ve had some tough times here since February with the plant closing down,” Price said. “I thought we were a little bit of bright light in a time that may be dismal. To see those people with cheers and laughter and a grin on their face and feeling good about us winning the state championship, this community has a little higher step today.”
WHEELING CENTRAL continued its dominance of Class A, winning its sixth title in the last eight years.
However, lost in the Maroon Knights’ championship run was a little-known fact that Charleston Catholic has reached the state championship game five consecutive years. That’s second all-time in all classes to only Northfork, which won eight consecutive Class AA crowns from 1974-81.
The Maroon Knights and Fighting Irish have played for the Class A title in four of the last five years. The only season they didn’t was in 2007 when Charleston Catholic defeated Bishop Donahue for the championship. That was also the first year since 2001 Wheeling Central didn’t reach the state tournament. Bishop Donahue eliminated the Maroon Knights prior to the state tournament in 2007.
Rich Stevens, a sportswriter for the Charleston Daily Mail, covers West Virginia for MaxPreps.