Boys basketball: Nitro grinds out win behind Sirianni, Clark
WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Postseason basketball calls for big shots and crucial plays as the spotlight intensifies, and the Nitro boys team delivered in a tight-knit contest at Winfield on Wednesday.
Nitro seniors Angelo Sirianni and Ethan Clark posted the game-deciding shots in the final minute of a back-and-forth contest as the Wildcats prevailed in Class AAA Region 4 sectional play, 63-60.
"That's tournament basketball," Nitro coach Bryan Faber said of the 'tough-it-out' win. "You grind out stops and you grind out tough possessions."
The Wildcats (11-12) and Generals (14-9) battled throughout and the lead exchanged hands several times. With the game tied 59-59, Nitro's seniors delivered the necessary clutch plays to secure victory.
First, Sirianni drove the lane to score with 28 seconds remaining after Nitro passed the ball around the perimeter.
Winfield missed on its ensuing shot opportunity and Nitro held the ball for an inbounds play with 8.8 seconds left.
Wildcats guard J.P. Mawyer passed from the sideline to Clark streaking toward the Nitro basket. Clark collected the pass and beat his man to the basket for a layup and four-point lead with 5 seconds to go.
Generals guard Zach Fisher was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 0.7 seconds remaining. Fisher made the first, but missed the next two, and time expired on Winfield's season.
"We battled. We took the lead, had chances," Winfield coach Pat McGinnis said, "but Nitro hit the big shots when they needed to."
After trailing by nine at halftime, the Generals rebounded to out-score the Wildcats 24-12 in the third quarter. During the run, junior forward Chris Turner dominated inside against Nitro's smaller lineup and eventually finished with a game-high 24 points.
"I was doing what coach told me to do and trying to help my team as best I could," Turner said. "It just wasn't enough, I guess."
Turner scored the first points of the fourth quarter to give Winfield its largest lead at 47-42, though Nitro quickly tied it with a Sirianni 3-pointer, followed by a Clark steal and score.
"We just dug down, dug down and got some stops, played defense and we converted those into transition points," Sirianni said.
Turner hit two free throws to give the Generals a brief two-point advantage, but another Sirianni 3-pointer and Clark steal and score put Nitro ahead three with less than six minutes to play.
The battle continued with Turner scoring back-to-back buckets. Clark responded with a pair of made free throws, and Sirianni hit another 3-pointer.
"We knew Angelo was a great player," Turner said. "He's going to get his points. We just didn't contain him well enough, and Nitro just hit some big shots."
Winfield fought to tie the game with 1:15 left on a Turner basket. From that point, though, it was Nitro that made the decisive plays.
"Things didn't go as planned, but sometimes that happens," Turner said.
"We were there right at the end, but couldn't do what we had to do to get the win. Credit to Nitro. They came out to play."
In the first half, both squads traded the lead. However, Nitro closed the half on an 8-0 run in the final 53 seconds propelled by two 3-pointers from Tyler Barton.
The Wildcats led 30-21 at halftime.
Winfield quickly closed the gap on its own 8-0 run in the third quarter behind Turner's play.
As Turner excelled offensively, Winfield's go-to guard Fisher was limited to just eight points as he was matched against Nitro's Clark.
"We emphasized that matchup and how important it was for Ethan to win that matchup defensively, and he did," Faber said.
Still, Fisher made significant contributions with six assists, six rebounds and three steals.
While Nitro made the necessary defensive stops, Winfield played without its top defender, Taylor Hearn, who suffered a bruised right knee and strained meniscus.
Winfield senior Brock Pence scored 10 points in his final high school game.
Nitro will play at top-seeded Hurricane (18-5) in the Region 4, Section 1 championship game Friday night.