State Tournament: South Charleston rallies to top Morgantown with Moles on bench
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If South Charleston Coach Vic Herbert knew that benching his tallest player would result in the Black Eagles beating a taller Morgantown team on the glass, SC senior Hunter Moles might not have played Thursday night in the Class AAA state tournament quarterfinals.
As it was, the 6-foot-4 Moles went to the bench after drawing a technical foul less than two minutes into the third quarter with Morgantown leading by five points and having outrebounded SC by 10 in the first half.
Moles did not return, but South Charleston's urgency - to hit the boards, to defend with more pressure and to take better shots on offense - emerged with a fury shortly after his exit, leading to a 48-39 Black Eagles (24-2) win and a date against No. 2 seed Beckley (22-4) in the Class AAA semifinals at 9 p.m. today.
"They outrebounded us in the first half, so we just wanted to come out and box out. We knew they had a bit of a height advantage on us," South Charleston senior point guard Ra'Shaud Kincaid said. "We knew they were shooting a couple 3s and they were bouncing out farther than usual so we wanted to get a body on everybody."
Led by 6-foot-9 West Virginia recruit Nathan Adrian, Morgantown (19-7) had 22 first-half rebounds to SC's 12.
By game's end, the totals were tied at 37-37.
"I just wanted to be physical with Adrian," said SC senior forward Trevond Reese, who had nine rebounds.
"I mean, he's a good player and he played his heart out. He had however many points, but it was a tough night for him. We just had to push him back and make him take hard shots."
Adrian was playing his third game since returning from a broken foot suffered in January. He finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds, both game highs, but made just 6 of 20 shots from the floor, with six of those attempts coming from 3-point range.
"There's no way I can shot 6-for-20 and expect us to win," Adrian said.
Adrian refused to blame his shooting performance on his injury, saying he is no longer hurt.
"That's no excuse at all," he said. "I was just bad."
As Adrian began to tire somewhat through the second half, Reese and A.D. Cunningham began to rough him up in the paint. Cunningham, a sophomore listed at 6-foot, led SC with 11 boards.
South Charleston took its first - and only - lead of the game with 3:22 left in the third, when senior Devyn Harris grabbed a steal and scored on a layup to put the Black Eagles ahead 28-27.
Morgantown junior Scottie Core hit a 3-pointer and with 2:02 left in the third made the first of a two-shot free-throw chance to tie the game at 31-31, but Kincaid drained a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to put SC up 36-33, and the Mohigans never got any closer. Morgantown was just 4-of-20 from the floor in the second half and scored just 13 points in the final two quarters.
Kincaid's bomb was one of only two 3-point attempts for SC after halftime. The Black Eagles were 3-of-11 from behind the arc in the first half.
"We were off in the first half. Coach, at halftime, told us to attack the basket," Kincaid said. "We decided to get tougher and take it to the basket and kick it out if we had to to get shots."
Kincaid had nine of his 15 points in the second half while freshman guard Brandon Knapper came off the bench and scored 10 of his team-high 16 points after the break.
"We didn't run offense. We were terrible on the offensive end," Herbert said. "We discussed that at halftime and then, defensively, I thought we really picked it up.
"We went from being pretty good to being daggone really good in the second half."
South Charleston owns Class AAA's longest active streak of consecutive state tournament appearances, with seven.
However, it was the Black Eagles' first state tournament win since 2010, when they knocked off rival George Washington in the quarterfinals before falling to Wheeling Park in the semis.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT