WESTON - A broken hand kept Deon Taylor sidelined to start the basketball season. An illness shelved him later in the season.
Taylor has spent more time in street clothes than in a uniform during Hedgesville's 18-5 season.
The Hedgesville senior finally broke a sweat. He broke Lewis County, too, and Taylor made up for lost time for the Eagles just in the nick of time in one Class AAA, Region II elimination game Tuesday at Lewis County.
With Johnny Riley accounting for virtually all of the scoring for the host Minutemen and proving at times difficult, if not impossible, to defend in a closely contested first half, Taylor came off the bench and spearheaded a defensive effort that limited Lewis County to nine-second half points in a 56-28 victory by Hedgesville.
Riley scored nothing in the third quarter as Hedgesville turned a five-point advantage into a 15-point lead.
"He was phenomenal," Hedgesville coach Kelly Church said of Taylor. "He played more tonight than all season combined."'
The fourth-ranked Eagles won't argue with an extra 6-foot-3 body like that as they head to Charleston to play in the final eight of Triple-A.
The Eagles expect to know their seed and quarterfinal opponent today.
"He did excellent," Hedgesville's leading scorer C.J. Burks said. "He did excellent. He stepped up and was a big help on defense."
Burks and Riley provided virtually all of the scoring in the first half.
Burks scored 15 points and Riley 14 as Hedgesville led 24-19 at halftime of a tepid-tempo contest.
The Minutemen made 9 of 16 field goal tries in the first half, but they also suffered 11 of their 20 turnovers.
The Minutemen led 11-8 after one period, but Hedgesville found some breathing room in the second period as Burks made two baskets in the final 47 seconds, a pair of open cuts to the basket.
"'Going into halftime up five - and I didn't think we had played well - was good,"' Church said. "'We tried hard but almost tried too hard.
"'Sometimes when you go into a game on the road and are favored, it can be hard. I thought we played not to lose. So we broke the second half down into four four-minute games, like we always do, and I thought the kids stepped up."'
Especially Taylor, chosen to thwart the 6-foot-5 Riley.
"We just rotated really well," Taylor said. "The guys (guarding him) in the first half helped me; they told me how he turned.
"We talked and had helpside help."
Hedgesville limited Riley and Lewis in the third quarter, holding the Minutemen to three points. The Eagles' offense spread around a bit, too, as four players scored in the period and their lead grew to 37-22.
"Kelly went to that triangle-and-two in the second half, and he put both on Riley," Lewis coach Charles Simms said. "None of our other kids really knocked their shots down. If some of them had knocked their shots down, I thought maybe we had a chance."
After Riley's 18 points, Austin Skinner, who joined the lineup late, was next with four points.
Burks led Hedgesville with 28 points.
Taylor, whose defensive prowess was displayed, scored five points.
"'He was not just phenomenal guarding one of the best big kids in the state,"' Church said, alluding to Taylor's offensive contribution.
An inside basket by Theo Carter with three minutes left boosted Hedgesville's lead to more than 20 points at 47-26 with three minutes left.
Carter finished with nine points, eight in the second half, while Daniel Delaware, scoreless from the field, and Kimani King each joined Taylor with five points.
"'We all had just had to shoot with confidence,"' Burks said. "'Just because we miss some, we can't stop shooting with confidence. We know it'll come eventually."'
The Eagles wound up going 22 of 48 from the floor, 13 of 24 after halftime. Lewis finished 12 of 36.
Still, Hedgesville was glowing about Taylor's effort.
"'I can't say enough about at tournament time, the way things went tonight, it really showed why it's a team game,"' Church said.
Hedgesville, who will be the No. 3 seed, is a team alive and with a chance of winning a second state title in three years.