As the Logan High School boys’ basketball team hit the floor for its home game on Thursday night against Tolsia, Willie Akers was on the mind of many Wildcat fans.
Akers, the legendary former Logan basketball coach and Logan County Commissioner whom the Logan gym is named, fell on the Charleston Civic Center floor on Wednesday, fracturing his C6 cervical vertebrae and breaking his nose.
Akers remains on a ventilator to help him breathe and is reportedly awaiting surgery on Monday at the CAMC Hospital in Charleston.
Logan girls’ basketball coach Kevin Gertz addressed the crowd on Thursday night and read a text message from Willie’s son, Chad Akers.
Part of the text read: “Willie is still on a ventilator and will be until surgery on Monday. He has a very long road ahead of him. Please don’t stop praying for him. He is a fighter and keep him in your prayers.”
Akers guided Logan to four Class AAA state championships in 1964, 1977, 1978 and 1983 and compiled a 402-116 record in his tenure which spanned 1962-83.
Prior to his coaching career, Akers was a two-time All-State selection at Mullens High School, helping his team to win the Class AAA title in 1955. He went on to WVU where he played on three teams that combined for a 81-12 record and was a co-captain his senior season.
Akers teammed with Jerry West on WVU’s 1959 team which lost to California in the NCAA championship game.
There was a moment of silence and prayer for Akers prior to Thursday night’s game.
It was an emotional night at Logan as former Wildcat player Brandon Townsend was also honored. Townsend, who played for Logan from 1995-97, was killed in a tragic coal mine accident earlier in the month near Charleston.
Several of Townsend’s family members were on hand and took part in a pre-game ceremony in which Townsend’s No. 34 framed jersey was handed out by Logan coach Mark Hatcher, along with some gifts.
As they say, the show must go on.
There was still a basketball game to be played.
The Wildcats responded by beating Tolsia, 63-52, and snapping a four-game losing streak.
“It was an emotional night,” Hatcher said. “We tried to have good emotion in our game on Wednesday night (at the Civic Center) but I really think that everyone was torn up with what happened with Coach Akers. I think our players were a little tired from the night before with the Parkersburg trip. They just didn’t have any energy and Winfield was an awfully good team and played really well.”
Logan, less than two weeks away until the Class AAA sectional tournament, improved to 7-12 on the season. Tolsia dropped to 13-7.
The Wildcats were playing their third game in three days. The Tolsia game was added to Logan’s schedule just a week ago and the Rebels replaced Belfry (Ky.) on the slate. Bad weather had prevented Logan and Belfry from playing in the previous two attempts.
Logan was led on Thursday night by A.J. Reynolds, who netted a career-high 24 points. Zak Miller drilled four 3-pointers and had 16 points for the night. Worm Street had nine, T.J. Tomblin and Z. Minnick tossed in five each and C.J. Williams had four points.
Tolsia, which dressed only 10 players and played only six, was paced by Brandon Clark’s 16 points. Morgan Stacey and Terry Davis also reached double figures in scoring with 14 and 10 points respectively.
The Wildcats seemed to wear down the bench-thin Rebels late in the game.
“Tolsia is a really tough team and a good defensive team,” Hatcher said. “But they don’t go very deep. I got some pretty good scouting reports from (Mingo Central coach) Brad Napier and my dad (Chapmanville coach Allan Hatcher). We really turned up the pressure on them in the second half and ran the floor really well. We substituted and went 10 or 12 deep and, again, they were going six deep. Our depth always helped us when we were in Double-A. I think this showed as the game wore on. You could tell they were getting worn out. They are in great shape but to have to play full court offense and defense it definitely took something out of them.”
Logan led 16-10 after one quarter and went into the locker room tied at 24 at the half. The Wildcat then outscored Tolsia 21-16 in the third to grab a 45-40 lead. It was all Logan in the fourth as the Cats outscored the Rebels 18-12.
Logan led by as many as 16 points with about two minutes to go.
Tolsia outscored the Wildcats 8-3 in the final minute and a half to make the final score a bit more respectable.
“We played really well in the second half,” Hatcher said. “We were more focused. We had a little walkthrough right after school on Thursday and you could tell that the kids were a little more ready to play. We used the emotion as a good thing. It seemed like it kept us going the whole game.”
Logan and Tolsia were once Class AA sectional rivals for a short period in the 2000s.
The two teams met in a memorable Class AA sectional championship game on March 2, 2005 at Spring Valley in which Logan went on a 23-0 game-ending run, breaking a 47-47 tie to beat the Rebels 70-47. The 2005 Wildcats, led by Lou Green, then went on to defeat Westside 60-56 in the Class AA state championship game at the Charleston Civic Center.
Leading by five after three periods, Logan then made a move on Tolsia in Thursday night’s contest.
Miller gave the Cats a boost right out of the gate with a 3-pointer, giving Logan a 48-40 lead with 7:10 to go in the game.
After a Minnick layup, a Reynolds free throw and a pair of inside hoops by Reynolds, Logan’s advantage swelled to 57-44 with 3:51 left.
Street’s hoop inside the lane with 2:24 to go pushed Logan to its largest lead of the night at 60-44.
The Cats then coasted to victory.
Logan was scheduled to return to action on Saturday night at Class A No. 1 Tug Valley. Logan goes to George Washington on Tuesday and hosts Capital on Thursday night in the annual LHS Senior Night game.
Tip times are 7:30 p.m. for all three games.
Logan is then slated to play in the Class AAA sectional tourney the following week at Cabell Midland High School.