Boys basketball: St. Albans overcomes adversity to top Capital
ST. ALBANS -- Tough, focused play carried the St. Albans boys basketball team against a tenacious, pressing Capital defense, as the Red Dragons prevailed in the squad's home-opener Tuesday night.
With an experienced lineup, St. Albans refused to cower against trap-inducing Capital and the Red Dragons emerged victorious in a hard-fought win, 58-49.
After opening the schedule with a 58-52 loss at Riverside, St. Albans Coach Marshall Kiser said the Red Dragons' effort against Mountain State Athletic Conference member Capital was a solid sign.
"To compete well with a team like Capital is a real big confidence boost for our kids, because we've got a tough road to hoe," Kiser said, alluding to upcoming games with George Washington and Logan. "But the biggest thing, we've just been trying to get the kids to play hard, and when the kids play hard, then good things are going to happen."
St. Albans indeed played hard and positive results followed, but neither came easily.
The Red Dragons quickly lost starting power forward Thad Moss in the second quarter when he rolled his left ankle. In the final minute of the third quarter, St. Albans leading scorer Nathan McNeil exited with a game-high 17 points after taking an elbow to the face. Later, in the fourth quarter, Taylor Clark fouled out.
Through it all, the Red Dragons played aggressively and intelligently against Capital's trap defense.
"We had a nice play designed there, we were moving the ball back and forth," McNeil said. "We got them moving and once we caught them off guard, we just zip it down. We weren't rushing into it. We took our time and I think that's what helped us a lot."
McNeil led the charge down the floor to guide St. Albans (1-1) past the Capital defense. His loss in the third quarter provided an opportunity for the Cougars (1-3), but Kiser said the Red Dragons bench played to its potential as the remaining starters continued without pause.
"We made a few substitutions and those kids that came in did a really nice job, and the kids continued to play," Kiser said.
Kevic Watkins, who led the St. Albans defensive effort with four blocks, pitched in 16 points, but credited the reserves for a big role in the victory.
"The bench players had to come in and step up their game, because if they wouldn't have we would have easily lost the game," he said. "They had hustle and intensity."
St. Albans led by as many as 16 in the second half after leading 36-24 at halftime. Still, Capital cut the deficit to five with 2:54 remaining in the contest following a pair of Carrington Morris free throws.
The Cougars, however, could not convert their opportunities down the stretch and the Red Dragons held for the victory.
"It was too late," Morris said of the Cougars' rally. "We tried to come back. Obviously, we scored some buckets, but it was too late in the game for us to get moving. We have to get moving earlier."
The loss marked the third in Capital's first four games.
"We haven't been able to find a rhythm all night, all year so far," Cougars Coach Carl Clark said. "We're just feeling our way through, a lot of young, inexperienced players and we're not executing what we're trying to do. Sometimes we do, but most of the time we don't, so it's all process of learning."
While Capital continues to search for answers, McNeil and St. Albans found lift in the victory.
"I think it's the first time I've beat Capital in my four years being here," he said. "That's just huge."