FORT GAY - Tolsia made its first five shots and built an early lead that would last as the Rebels defeated visiting Herbert Hoover 46-33 to claim the Class AA Region 4 co-championship and punch their ticket to next week's state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Tolsia (17-8) found itself ahead 11-5 early after senior Morgan Stacy banked in a 3-pointer from the left elbow and continued its hot shooting into the second quarter. After Stacy hit another 3-pointer, this time from the right elbow and at the buzzer, the Rebels were ahead 31-16 and had only missed five shots in the half.
Unlike Hoover's previous game against Poca in the sectional final, the Huskies were able to avoid costly turnovers. Tolsia made Hoover pay on the glass, and Huskies' coach Jeff Gandee said sometimes his team was in too much of a hurry to make something happen.
"We still have a tendency to be impatient and pull the trigger," Gandee said. "The thing we try to teach them is when they're making every shot, you have to make sure you make your shots. You just can't get into that ebb and flow of you miss, they make, you miss, they make. You just create a hole and obviously, at the end of the first quarter, we were down half of what the deficit ended up being."
The Rebels were making their shots, but they weren't all coming easy. Hoover played tight defense but the Rebel players kept finding ways to get shots off that went in. Tolsia coach Jason Hatfield said when his team shoots that well, especially when Stacy is finding the bottom of the basket as he did early in the game, they are tough to beat.
"Morgan's been that way all year," Hatfield said. "He's been kind of off-and-on and when you catch him when he's on, you better watch out. Early on, I think he set the tone."
The game's pace slowed down considerably in the third quarter, with the teams combining for just 12 total points in the period. Hoover (14-11) picked up its intensity on defense, slowing the Rebels offense and holding them to just 2 of 9 from the field in the quarter.
Hoover was not the only team playing stingy defense, as the Rebels held the Huskies to just 2 of 11 shooting in the quarter with numerous shots blocked or altered by Tolsia big-man Austin Brewer.
"Just his presence back there [caused problems for Hoover]," Hatfield said. "After he blocked some shots early on, I think he got in some guys heads and they were a little more reluctant to penetrate that far in there. He stepped up and played big for us defensively this evening."
Hoover tried to claw its way back into the game in the fourth quarter, but after forward Cody Morris hit two 3-pointers, the Huskies had trouble getting their shots to fall.
"[Tolsia] had us well scouted," Gandee said. "That's the third time we've played and I know they watched the films, so they knew what they had to do. We had some opportunities to get the ball into [Morris] early, and we were able to a few times, but we weren't able to capitalize on that."
Morris finished as Hoover's leading scorer with 14 points and was the only member of the Huskies to crack double figures. For Tolsia, Stacy led the way with 15 points while Terry Davis finished with 10, including a 6-of-8 performance from the charity stripe.
The Rebels return to the state tournament after falling short in their bid for a championship last season. Hatfield returned every starter but one from that squad and hopes that experience and the leadership that comes from having seven seniors on his roster will mean good things for the team next week at the Civic Center.
"We've got seven seniors on our team, so hopefully our senior leadership can win us a few basketball games once we get to the Civic Center," he said. "We were all there last year. All the guys that played this year were there last year, so we have that experience."