CHARLESTON - Chase Harler can be excused for the one shot he wishes he could have back.
After all, the sophomore sensation carried Wheeling Central when it needed him the most.
With fellow scorer extraordinaire David Park struggling to find the touch, Harler came up with the performance of his young lifetime, with 22 points in the second half, and 30 for the game, in the Maroon Knights' 64-55, double-overtime victory against Charleston Catholic at the Charleston Civic Center on Saturday in the West Virginia Class A boys' basketball state championship game.
Wheeling Central’s Chase Harler, left, tries to get around Charleston Catholic’s Nick George on Saturday.
To break it down even further, he had eight points in the two overtimes combined and came up with several clutch points.
He was, as Bill McClanahan said, the difference.
"I believe his basketball IQ was more significant than his basketball skills, in my estimation as a basketball coach," said McClanahan, who was coaching his final game for Catholic after earlier announcing his retirement. "He made a lot of good basketball decisions at the end of the game. From my perspective, as a coach, his decision-making at the end of the game made the difference."
Mostly it was about being aggressive, with one exception.
It was at the end of regulation whem he dribbled the ball toward the paint, stopped, and fired a 3-pointer.
"Yeah, if I could do it again I probably would have taken that one to the basket," Harler said. "(The defender) was playing off me a little and I thought I'd get an open look. Dumb shot. I can't do anything about it now, but yeah, I probably should have taken it to the basket."
Hey, it turned out all right in the end. He is today wearing the mantle of state champion.
Mainly because of all the good decisions he made.
Like taking the ball right to the basket at the beginning of the second overtime and getting an old-fashioned three-point play to put Central up 52-49.
Or getting fouled on the next possession and making a free throw to make it 53-49.
Or attacking the basket and putting in a sweet floater to make it a 57-51 game.
Harler finally found his range at the free throw-line, making four straight after a Nick George 3 to seal a championship for Central.
And that doesn't even touch the 14 points he had in the second half, prior to overtime.
It was his 3 that tied the game for the first time at 34-34.
He tied it again at 36-36 with two free throws.
His 3 with 2:56 remaining gave Central its first lead with 2:56 remaining.
Harler certainly didn't look like a sophomore on the state's biggest stage.
"I think the experience he has gained playing in AAU basketball," coach Mel Stephens said of why Harler is so cool and calm, a talent that as a sophomore, helped him step up at the right time. "He is obviously mature beyond his years, especially for a sophomore, on the basketball court. I'm glad we have him, and I'm glad we have him for two more years."
The kudos come repeatedly for a kid with the skills Harler possesses.
He typically takes it with a grain of salt.
Perhaps the biggest compliment he will ever receive came from his opponent on the court, Charleston Catholic's Nick George, who, even in defeat, was impressed.
"I'm glad I got a chance to play against him," George, who was playing in his third state championship game, said. "I can say I played against him one day, because he is going to be special. He is special. To score (30) points in a state championship is really something."
Given the circumstances, a better compliment would be hard to beat.
Yes, he can be forgiven the one that got away. He made up for it. By making the ones that mattered most.
Dave Morrison can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org