Boys basketball: Catholic survives turnover-filled contest
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bill McClanahan was not happy.
The Charleston Catholic basketball coach watched in frustration as the Class A defending state champion Irish ground out a 53-46 win over previously unbeaten Buffalo Thursday night, surviving 17 turnovers and a 7-for-13 shooting performance from the foul line to do so.
He lit into his team afterward, then explained that his emotion is not triggered as much by the result of a single game, but rather by the progress - or lack thereof - that Catholic has shown in its attempt to successfully defend its title.
"From our perspective, we're not getting any better. That's not what this program is about," said McClanahan, whose team improved to 6-1 with the win.
The loss was Buffalo's first after a 9-0 start. Catholic is ranked second in the Associated Press Class A poll. Buffalo is tied for third with Tucker County.
"This program's about taking steps - sometimes big, sometimes small - but it's about taking steps to get ready for March, and we're not taking any steps," McClanahan said.
Actually, taking steps was a common theme for both teams Thursday. Though the Bison and Irish combined for 20 steals, traveling calls were frequent and the teams had 37 total turnovers.
"We just couldn't take advantage when they'd have a breakdown," Buffalo Coach Chuck Elkins said. "There's be time when they'd turn the ball over, and we just couldn't keep it together ourselves."
Buffalo led by four points early in the second quarter, when junior point guard Isaiah Robinson stole the ball from Catholic's Garret McCarty and raced the length of the court for a layup to make it 19-15.
Nelson McKown gave the Irish the lead for good, however, when he scored in the final minute of the half to put Catholic up 24-27. Senior Nick George hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Irish a four-point cushion at intermission.
McCarty opened second-half scoring with a 3-pointer of his own, and Catholic built an 11-point lead in less than 4 minutes when senior forward Keifer Hovorka hit his own 3 to make it 39-28.
A significant reason for Catholic's ability to gain breathing room was Robinson's diminished production. Though McCarty and Catholic guard David Godwin each had two fouls - and McCarty three - before halftime, the duo locked down on him in the third quarter.
Robinson had eight points and an assist in the first half. He was scoreless with one assist in the third.
"It wasn't Isaiah's fault, but we stopped hitting shots out on the wing like we were in the first half," Elkins said. "He played well, we just couldn't hit open shots in the second half."
Buffalo and Robinson adjusted in the fourth, however, and he became more of a distributor as the Bison crept back into the game. Robinson fed Dylan Rich for a lay-in that cut the lead to 45-41 with just over 3 minutes left in regulation, and Laythen Good pulled Buffalo within 47-44 with a 3-pointer with 2 minutes to play.
"My hat's off to Buffalo," McClanahan said. "Chuck had them ready, they came in and executed what they were supposed to do, they played the way they needed to play and I congratulate them for their effort."
As appreciative as McClanahan was afterward for the challenge the Bison presented his team, the Irish hit 4-of-6 free throws in the final minutes to seal the win. George sank both ends of a two-shot opportunity with 13 seconds left for the final points, giving him a game-high 17 to go with his game-high eight rebounds.
Jordan and Robinson each had 11 points to lead Buffalo, while Casto also scored in double figures for the Irish. He finished with 10 points and shared the team lead in steals with three, the same number grabbed by Hovorka.
Jordan had four steals for Buffalo, while Robinson led all players with five assists.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.