HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Nitro had battled to stay with No. 9 Huntington High in its Class AAA Region 4 co-final, and with slightly more than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had cut the Highlanders' lead to 58-53 following two Angelo Sirianni foul shots.
What followed was a layup by Huntington's Chancelor Wooding and then freshman Tavian Dunn-Martin stole the Nitro inbounds pass and quickly hit a 3-pointer to give the Highlanders a 10-point lead and effectively put the game out of reach.
When the final buzzer sounded, Huntington (18-6) defeated the visiting Wildcats 70-63 to clinch its first trip to the Class AAA state tournament since 2008.
Dunn-Martin finished with 14 points, 11 coming in the fourth quarter (including a 6-of-8 mark at the foul line to help pad the Highlanders' lead). Huntington coach Ron Hess said despite entering the fourth quarter just 1 of 9 from the field, he wanted his freshman to keep shooting.
"Any time Tavian is open and he's at the 3-point line, he's got the green light," Hess said. "He wasn't hitting a couple of shots early on and you see his head go down a little bit but I told him to just keep working and if you get the open shot, take the shot. He's a great shooter and he hit some big shots at the end and there was the freshman going to the foul line and making a lot of foul shots down the stretch for us."
Nitro (11-14), which upset Winfield in the sectionals, led 11-8 after the first quarter and trailed by just two at halftime 23-21. A big reason for the Wildcats' success early in the game came from their plan to take the ball inside.
"The game plan going in was to drive the ball to the rim," Nitro coach Bryan Faber said. "We thought we could get it to the rim, we thought they would foul us. We wanted to drive it deep and kick it for 3-point attempts and early Angelo got to the rim just about any time he wanted."
Turnovers became a problem for the Wildcats in the second half, however, and several times Nitro's pass attempts were intercepted and taken the other way for Huntington points, with the killer coming on Dunn-Martin's steal and 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
"In the fourth quarter, the five-point play was a killer but these guys kept fighting," Faber said. "They fought for 32-minutes and they never gave up."