HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- In crucial moments, sometimes the smallest player makes the largest impact.
Diminutive guard Tavian Dunn-Martin started slowly, but provided Huntington with the spark the team needed to advance to the State Tournament with a 70-63 victory in a Class AAA Region 4 co-final Tuesday night.
With the win, the Highlanders (18-6) advance to the State Tournament for the first time since 2008.
"It feels great to get to the State Tournament, especially for my seniors," fourth-year Huntington Coach Ronald Hess said. "They came in with me, this is my fourth year, and they came up with me, and I just feel so good that they're getting to the State Tournament finally, and also for this whole team.
"This team has worked to get here. That was our main goal, to get here. Now, we have to reset our goals and see what we can do in the State Tournament."
While the Highlanders upperclassmen provided leadership throughout the season, Dunn-Martin, a 5-foot-7 freshman, entered from the bench to make one of the game's most impactful plays Tuesday.
In a back-and-forth contest, Nitro cut the deficit to five with 2:53 remaining in the game after trailing by as many as 14.
Chancelor Wooding pushed the lead to seven with 2:08 to go, before Dunn-Martin stole the ensuing inbound pass, stepped back and calmly drained a 3-point shot. The bucket reversed Nitro's comeback momentum and sent the Highlanders crowd into a frenzy.
"I just stole it, anticipated the play, just fired it up and made it," Dunn-Martin said.
The shot was Dunn-Martin's third and final field goal of the game after starting 2-of-12 from the field.
Despite Dunn-Martin's slow start and stature as one of the smallest on the court, junior Nick Tubbs said the Highlanders have plenty of confidence in Dunn-Martin.
"He's amazing to see, somebody that young to come out here and perform like that," Tubbs said. "He stepped up in so many ways that we need everybody on this team (to do)."
Hess said like any quality shooter, Dunn-Martin kept shooting to work past his woes.
"He wasn't hitting a couple shots early on," Hess said. "You could see his head go down a little bit, but (I was saying) 'Keep working. You get open shots, take the shot.' That's what he does, and he's a great shooter.
"He hit some big shots there in the end, and there's a freshman going to the foul line and making a lot of foul shots down the stretch for us, too."
Dunn-Martin hit 4-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and finished with nine points in the final quarter.