LEBANON — It’s often said that defense wins championships. By the same token, a lack of offense can cost a team a chance to play for one.
Scoring was in short supply in both Region D, Division 1 boys basketball semifinals. Castlewood survived St. Paul’s slowdown strategy to secure a 23-14 victory over its archrival. Appalachia defeated Hurley 41-38 in overtime.
Castlewood (20-4) and Appalachia (22-4) advanced to today’s regional championship game, set for a 4 p.m. tipoff at Virginia High. The Blue Devils and Bulldogs also earned spots in next week’s VHSL Group A, Division 1 quarterfinals.
“I hate the way this is set up where we don’t even have 24 hours before we play in a championship game. But that’s the way it is,” Bulldogs coach Pat Jervis said.
The way was rough for all four teams when it came to scoring.
Going against top-seeded Castlewood for the fourth time this season, No. 4 St. Paul held the ball for nearly the entirety of the first three quarters. Heading into the fourth frame, Castlewood led 9-6.
“We haven’t beat Castlewood since I’ve been there,” Deacons coach Patrick Damron said. “Just going out and matching up doesn’t work. I tried something that’s a little unorthodox and I thought it sort of gave us a chance there.”
Castlewood coach Wayne Rasnick said he saw the slowdown strategy coming.
“I had two theories of what was going to happen, and I had them prepared for that,” Rasnick said.
Yet even the Deacons didn’t plan on slowing the pace to such an egregious level, according to Damron.
“Really the game plan wasn’t to hold the ball,” the coach said. “We tried to spread the floor and make them come out and guard us, and they really wouldn’t.”
Nevertheless, the “St. Stall” game plan would have worked much better with improved ball- handling. The Deacons committed 13 turnovers, five in the second quarter. The game’s pace went from snail-like to glacial in the third frame, when both teams combined to attempt only six field goals.
Devin Puckett and Ethan Collins each made a crucial 3-pointer in the fourth quarter for Castlewood. Collins’ trey put the Blue Devils ahead 17-8, and Zach Bush scored four of his 10 points in the final 2:30.
“I’m really pleased with these kids,” Rasnick said. “They could have went all to pieces on us. They didn’t do that.”
St. Paul didn’t crack double digits until well into the fourth quarter, when Castlewood was ahead by a 19-8 margin.
“It’s one of those where if it works, you look like a genius. If it don’t, you look like an idiot,” Damron said. “But I’ll take full responsibility.”
Bolstered by a raucous cheering section, second-seeded Hurley (15-12) rallied from a profound shooting drought to make a game of it against No. 3 Appalachia.
After Austin Cooper made a shot with 2:47 to go before halftime, the Rebels (15-12) didn’t make another field goal until Tyler Cooper’s inside bucket with 31 seconds remaining in the third period.
Despite not making a field goal for more than 10 minutes, Tyler Cooper’s slump-busting bucket made it a three-point game.
“Each of us limited the other’s offense to contested shots. There wasn’t a whole lot that came easy,” Jervis said.
A tip-in by Tyler Cooper with 1:21 to go in regulation helped force overtime.
In the extra session, the Bulldogs got four points apiece from Forrest Stuart and Mladen Bogicevic.
Stuart tallied 16 points for Appalachia, including a buzzer-beater from halfcourt that gave the Dawgs an 18-16 halftime advantage. Bogicevic added eight points and Mason Stuart seven.
Dustin Waynick, Hurley’s impressive 6-foot-7 sophomore, notched 15 points.
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