Thorin Stage spends his practices trying to find the open teammates, and hearing from coaches about how he should shoot the ball more.
Stage took that advice to heart Thursday night.
The Hagerstown sophomore connected on the first four 3-pointers he took as the Tigers put an end to Centerville’s eight-year reign in boys basketball at the Wayne County Tournament.
Stage finished with a game-high 19 points, Tyler Black provided a double-double and Hagerstown halted Centerville 49-31, ensuring Wayne County will have a new champion for the first time since 2004.
“Every day in practice, I get yelled at to shoot the ball because I try and pass it and get other (teammates) open,” Stage said. “I get yelled at a lot for it, so I thought, ‘I’m just going to shoot it tonight.'”
A wise decision that served the Tigers well — and helped serve up a double-digit lead in the first half.
Hagerstown now awaits which team it will face in the final. Northeastern plays Lincoln tonight for the second spot.
“I love it. I love playing with my team,” Stage said.
” … Our team is just fundamentally sound.”
And effective on both ends of the floor.
Hagerstown surged to a 13-2 lead after one quarter, and led 24-6 by halftime. Centerville didn’t have its first field goal until Braden Suttle connected with 23 seconds left in the first half.
“That was the best defense I’ve seen us play, the best half of defense, so far up to this point,” said Hagerstown coach Bobby Jones, whose squad improved to 10-0. “We’re just so physical that when our kids decide to sit down and help each other on defense, we’re hard to score on and teams get tired.”
Stage stretched the Hagerstown lead to 21 with a trey to start the third quarter, but the Bulldogs slowly started to battle back.
Centerville ended the quarter with a flurry, scoring 10 straight points and pulling within 35-25 heading into the final period.
“It seems to be a common theme this year — we don’t play well in the first half and we have a little spurt in the second half and get excited,” said Centerville coach Ryan Chiddister. “Our excitement needs to come from within and we don’t have that prior to the start of the game.”
Braden Suttle led Centerville with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Mickey Barnes added five boards for the Bulldogs (3-5).
Black dominated the rebounding for Hagerstown, finishing with 14 to go with his 16 points.
Bryan Mathews added six points, Kain Grose had six rebounds and Cole Bartlett five for the Tigers.
“It was just a good team effort,” Jones said. “Cole Bartlett continues to guard. Tyler was a monster on the boards, especially late in the game. … That was probably the best game I’ve seen Tyler Black play up to this point. He was really focused.”
Hagerstown will now turn its focus toward tonight’s Lincoln-Northeastern contest. The Knights are the last non-Centerville team to win the county title when they did so in 2004.
“I’m proud of the guys that we’ve had play for us in the past, and the guys who have sweat and bled for us throughout the course of the week to have eight championships in eight years, nine in 10 years,” Chiddister said. “I’m proud of those players and hopefully the guys that we have on this year’s team will try to carry on that tradition.”