State Tournament: Catholic completes sweep of Buffalo
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic forced just 13 turnovers, but it was the Irish pressure that resulted in the demise of Buffalo's season Wednesday at the state tournament.
The third-seeded Irish received double-doubles from Zach Casto and Nick George and the Catholic press forced the tempo in a 61-48 victory over the No. 6 seed Bison (21-5).
Four players scored in double figures for Catholic (23-3), which will face No. 7 Wheeling Central at 9:30 a.m. Friday in a Class A semifinal.
Casto had 17 points and 10 rebounds and George finished with 10 points and 10 boards. They combined for 20 of Catholic's 32 rebounds.
It was the fourth meeting of the season between the teams, all of which were won by Charleston Catholic.
"We came out focused," said Charleston Catholic Coach Bill McClanahan, who has guided the Irish to the state semifinals eight consecutive years with three titles. "In the first half, we had some nervous energy and didn't apply it very well."
The Irish didn't step up the full-court pressure until the third quarter, which resulted in a 13-2 run and an 11-point lead entering the final period.
A curious decision, perhaps for the defending Class A state champion, but one that McClanahan said was by design.
"It's a coaching decision," McClanahan said. "I try to coach based on my players and their temperament, their style and the opponent. I didn't feel we were as deep as we were in the past. I tried to keep legs fresh and knew that five would have to go most of the game."
Some of the reasoning, McClanahan admitted, was the hill his team might have to climb to get back to the state championship game.
The addition of former Class AA teams Magnolia and Tug Valley might have altered his decision-making process against a team the Irish had already beaten three times this season.
"We knew going in late in the game that if we weren't ahead they would spread it out," said Buffalo Coach Chuck Elkins, whose team only other loss besides Catholic this season came to St. Marys on a buzzer-beater. "That's their game plan. We were down enough that when they went spread, we couldn't catch back up."
The Bison put up soft pressure in the first half and slowed the tempo of the game and trailed by just two at the intermission. They forced Catholic into 11 3-point attempts in the first half, "more than we take in a whole game most games," McClanahan said.
Buffalo was 1-for-6 from long range in the first half, which included a few rushed shots.
"In the first half we took more than a couple quick ones," Elkins said. "I would've liked to see more ball movement and more passes. On the other hand, I'm not going to say in any other game we wouldn't have taken the same shots. If you're open, you shoot it. We set school records for points scored and 3-pointers, we wanted to get 60-70 points on the board and Catholic wants to play in the 40s and 50s."
There were four ties in the third quarter until the 5-minute mark when David Godwin hit a basket for a two-point lead and two Garret McCarty free throws increased the lead to four, its second-largest lead of the game.
The lead was eight with 7:18 left and 14 with 2:49 remaining. A pair of Isaiah Robinson free throws cut the advantage to eight with 1:31 left, but Catholic pulled away.
"Buffalo comes out hard, especially in the first half," point guard Garret McCarty said. "We want our legs fresh in the second half, because that's when you need them most. I didn't want to press in the first half."
The Bison was led by senior Levi Jordan with 14 points and added seven rebounds. Senior Dylan Rich had eight points and 14 rebounds and Aaron Lewis contributed 10 points.
Godwin and McCarty had 16 points apiece for the Irish.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.