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Boys basketball: South Charleston manhandles Greenbrier East

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a showdown featuring two of the state's top 10 Class AAA boys basketball squads, South Charleston celebrated Senior Night on Thursday with a statement win against Greenbrier East.

After falling to Beckley in the Mountain State Athletic Conference Championship game Saturday, third-ranked South Charleston responded to dominate visiting No. 6 Greenbrier East behind a suffocating defense in a 67-41 victory. With the win, the Black Eagles returned to their winning ways, honored the team's seniors and perhaps improved their State Tournament seeding.

"I told the kids that tonight was a night that we were playing for our seniors first and then seeding second," SC Coach Vic Herbert said. "That's exactly what I told them. We're trying to get a one or two seed, because if you're lucky enough to get to the State Tournament, you get to play Wednesday, and you have Thursday off."

Greenbrier East played within striking distance much of the first half, yet Herbert said he felt SC was on the brink of taking control.

"We were just on the verge of just popping it open in the first half, and they just hung around," he said.

The Black Eagles led by nine with less than 30 seconds left in the first half, but Spartans guard Tyler Canterbury hit a 3-pointer after a turnover.

SC led 29-23 at halftime. In the second half, the Black Eagles defense found another level to thwart any comeback hopes.

"I think we just wanted to get that game over with," senior Hunter Moles said. "Going into halftime they hit a 3, and we knew we were close to putting them out. We just pushed it on defense, pressure and everything."

Greenbrier East cut the deficit to three points midway through the third quarter, but the SC defense took control, while the offense manufactured a 12-3 run to close the quarter.

The Spartans' point production continued to dwindle in the fourth quarter as the Black Eagles locked down defensively. Greenbrier East scored just two field goals in the fourth quarter, with the second coming in the final 10 seconds of the game.

"We challenged them defensively to do a little bit better job as far as keeping the penetration down," Herbert said. "We played what we call our '21' defense, which is as much pressure as we can get on the ball and then everybody else is inside the arc and we play the gaps. So if they do get their shoulders around and start driving on us, whoever has that gap coverage can step over."

As lanes to the basket closed for Greenbrier East, the Spartans resorted to hoisting 3-point shots, but with little success. The Spartans made just 6 of 25 shots from 3-point range for the game.

"You don't see that kind of performance out of us day in and day out, that's for sure," Greenbrier East Coach Jim Justice said.

Spartans standout Rondale Watson, a 6-3 junior guard, impressed with his speed and displayed talent that's drawing Division I attention, though Watson finished 3 of 13 from the field with 11 points.

"He's a great player," Justice said of Watson. "He just had a tough game.

"Rondale can do everything. He jumps out of the gym. He gets off his feet really, really, really quick, and that's the big thing about him. He's got great body control going to the glass. He usually can take the hits and everything and put it on the glass and score. Tonight, he was getting hit a lot and they weren't calling it or he just wasn't able to handle the pressure, one of the two."

Both Justice and Herbert confirmed members of the Marshall University men's basketball coaching staff were on hand to watch the game. Herbert added West Virginia University indicated Coach Bob Huggins showed interest in attending the contest, but had a radio show commitment.

The real show Thursday starred the Black Eagles, though, as SC was determined to move past its loss to Beckley.

"I think after that Beckley loss we got back to practice and we were just angered," Black Eagles sophomore A.D. Cunningham said. "I think it lit a fire under us, and we were ready to come out and bounce back."

Cunningham exhibited that fire with a game-high 17 points and six steals. Moles also reached double figures with 12 points.

SC next plays at Wheeling Park 7:30 p.m. Saturday.


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