Boys basketball: Warriors fall short vs. Black Eagles
QUINCY, W.Va. - South Charleston forward A.D. Cunningham was getting antsy on the bench while waiting for his first minute of playing time on Thursday at Quincy.
The sophomore was suspended for the Black Eagles' game against George Washington Wednesday, and wasn't needed in the 20-point victory.
His absence would have been noticeable against Riverside, as he scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half to lift SC to a 48-42 comeback victory.
In their first loss of the season, the Warriors (3-1) held a 13-point lead in the first half despite having seven more turnovers than the Black Eagles (3-0).
Sure enough, the lack of big-game experience showed, but it still was a coming of age of sorts for surging Riverside, which couldn't combat the inside strength of Cunningham.
"I had to get out there and start playing and not worry about making mistakes," said Cunningham, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound bruiser who had three of SC's eight offensive rebounds. "I had the hot hand and my teammates were getting me the ball. I was trying to win the game, make some shots."
His first appearance came with 5:21 left in the second quarter and included only three points before getting warmed up.
"He's just a beast," South Charleston Coach Vic Herbert said. "He's 5-11, 190, strong upper body."
Cunningham wasn't the only player shaking off cobwebs. Riverside sophomore Josh Butcher's nervousness was evident early, as he struggled and went to the bench in the first quarter. Following a brief respite, he returned in the second to hit a trio of 3-pointers before a 3 from Tyus Wood that staked the hosts to their biggest lead of the game, 28-15, with 2:10 left until intermission.
"He's (Butcher) a sophomore, he had some spot time last year," Riverside Coach Dusty Herscher said. "It all comes with experience. Big game, nice crowd, it's something that Riverside hadn't experienced for over 10 years."
The South Charleston experience came in handy late in the first half when the Black Eagles scored the last 10 points of the half to cut the lead to three.
Offensively, Herbert moved Moles closer to the basket where he scored nine of his 13 points in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Black Eagles switched defenses from man-to-man to 1-2-2 and an extended 2-3. They didn't allow a second-half 3-pointer until Butcher hit one with 1 second left.
"We started in man but they were driving it on us," said Herbert, whose team watched Riverside hit seven of its nine shots in the first quarter. "We went back to man, because we had to get back in the game after being down 13. We started getting in the seams and stopping them from driving. That first quarter they just drove at will. They got all their points 3 feet from the basket."
In the second half, South Charleston forced eight turnovers and limited Riverside to 6-of-20 shooting after seeing the hosts shoot 60 percent (12-of-20) in the first half. Riverside finished with 18 turnovers, compared to only seven for SC.
"When we got down, we said, 'Hey, we better start defending or we're going to get beat,'" he said. "That's about as good as it gets defensively. In a half court man situation, you're not going to see it much better than that."
South Charleston created problems early, but failed to convert enough of them to points, scoring the game's first five but getting outscored 10-0 the final 3 minutes of the first quarter.
Butcher led Riverside with 12 points, hitting 4-of-6 3-pointers. Tyus Wood came off the bench to contribute 10 points.
Point guard Marcus Reed had eight points for Riverside, but had a game-high six assists and tied for the game-high in rebounds with seven.
The teams meet again on Dec. 28 in the Chick-fil-A Holiday Classic at the South Charleston Community Center.
Riverside's next contest is tonight at 8 against Capital at the Charleston Civic Center.
South Charleston waits until 7 p.m. Saturday when it plays University in the Black Eagles' second game of the season on the Civic Center floor.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.