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Boys basketball: Sluggish start leads to Poca loss

By Nick Brockman

POCA, W.Va. - What started slow finished stronger, but a plodding first half doomed the Poca boys basketball team against visiting Tolsia Tuesday night.

The Dots scored just eight points in the first half and trailed by 15 at halftime before outscoring the Rebels in the final half. Despite the improved play, it wasn't enough to overcome a sluggish first half in an eventual 53-39 loss in Cardinal Conference play.

"They just came out ready to play and I guess we didn't," Poca junior Jake Payne said.

The loss marked the first of the season for the Dots (2-1) after back-to-back wins against Nitro and Clay County.

"I think we came in off two big wins and thought we were going to play and just do our thing and walk through it and win, but that's not our conference," Payne said. "Our conference is 10 times better than that, and we can't be doing that at all, any game we play."

Payne scored all nine of his points in the third quarter as part of an improved effort from the Dots.

Poca outscored Tolsia (1-2) by one in the second half, but needed much more to overcome a 23-8 first-half deficit.

"We weren't making shots," Payne said of the first half. "We were letting our missed shots make us not play defense on the other end. That's our whole game plan: play defense. We're not a really good shooting team anyways. We got to get lay-ups off our defense."

Defense started strong for the Dots as Poca led 6-5 after the first quarter. The Dots scored the opening basket of the second quarter, but Tolsia manufactured an 18-0 run to close the half. From that point the Rebels maintained a double-digit lead throughout.

"The first quarter, it looked like we were playing a little league game," Tolsia Coach Jason Hatfield said of the low production. "We knew coming in they were going to be tough defensively. We just didn't know they were going to hold us to five points in the first quarter.

"We knew coming in they wanted to keep the score in the 30s, at least the 40s, so we thought maybe this game would be a race to 50, and whoever got to 50 would win. Luckily, it was us."'

The Rebels overcame Poca's defensive pressure thanks in part to the play of center Austin Brewer, who employed both size and dexterity to power to the basket and pass to teammates.

"Tolsia's got that big guy [Brewer] inside and he did a good job kicking out and finding the open shooters," Dots Coach Allen Osborne said. "We didn't get back and close out on them and take their shot away.

"We didn't get any open looks and turned the ball over, gave them some easy buckets and let the game get away from us in the first half."

Osborne said he was pleased by his team's response after halftime and hopes the Dots will learn from the experience as Poca moves forward to another tough matchup vs. Charleston Catholic 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"Our effort was much better the second half," Osborne said. "I just don't think we were ready to play, which was my fault. We weren't ready to play the game and so we have to take this and learn from it, grow and get better and get ready for Catholic Friday because they're really good too."

Tolsia's Terry Davis led all scorers with 17 points. Rebels guard Morgan Stacy finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Brewer tallied 10 points.

For Poca, Noah Frampton paced the Dots with 10 points.



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