CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The dynamic ability of South Charleston's newest point guard was apparent early in the Black Eagles' 88-49 victory over Princeton at the South Charleston Community Center.
Although the outmanned Tigers (0-3) were no match for the season debut of the Black Eagles (1-0), South Charleston appears ready to go farther than it has in Coach Vic Herbert's first four seasons.
Point guard Brandon Knapper finished with 24 points, but it was a jab step, instincts, driving to the lane and finding open teammates that was apparent in his first start at the new position.
"I just want to credit my teammates for finding me for open shots and staying after practice and working hard," Knapper said.
Knapper hit his first four shots and six of his first eight attempts while South Charleston bolted to a 17-2 lead and a 24-5 advantage with 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
He finished with four of South Charleston's 17 steals and added three of the Black Eagles' 13 assists. The Tigers couldn't contain South Charleston's abundance of talent and failed at trying to stop dribble penetration.
South Charleston used reserves for the first half of the second quarter and kept the lead at more than 20 points.
Princeton cut the lead to 16 with 2:46 left in the third quarter, but was ultimately done in by South Charleston's early pressure that forced nine turnovers in the first quarter.
"That's what happened to us in our previous two games," said Princeton Coach Ernie Gilliard, referring to losses to Bluefield and Shady Spring. "We have to value the ball. We have to learn how to take care of it, because when we have these turnovers early and we allow these teams to score early, it's difficult."
South Charleston had 11 players score, with A.D. Cunningham finishing with 12 points and six rebounds and Kentre Grier adding 11 points.
Senior post player Anthony Billings had just seven points, but hit on three of his five shot attempts and blocked five Princeton shots.
Walter Clark came off the bench to score five points, but also had three assists and three steals for the well-rounded Black Eagles, who have three 20-win seasons and reached the state semifinals twice in Herbert's first four years but couldn't make it to the season's final game.
Herbert said his team is still a work in progress, but some things will be more noticeable in the first "six to eight games."
Knapper wouldn't wait that long, going 9-of-14 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the foul line while being tasked to shooting technical foul shots for SC - which took advantage of a technical foul on Princeton's coach and guard Zen Clements.
"We want him to shoot it when he's open because he's our best shooter," said Herbert, who improved to 85-21 in five seasons at South Charleston. "Different good shots for different players. Like A.D. (Cunningham), medium-range shots and getting to the hoop. Brandon did exactly what I wanted him to do tonight. When he's open he has to shoot the ball.
"That's the same thing with a kid like Jordan Lewis. He's a good perimeter shooter, he has to shoot it when he's open. I think most of our guys played to their strengths."
Princeton was led by Aaron Ferguson with 17 points, while Ashton O'Dell finished with 13 and Jay Palmer with 10.
South Charleston returns to action on Saturday when it tests its new lineup against Brooke at the Charleston Civic Center.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstev...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.
SOUTH CHARLESTON 88, PRINCETON 49
Player FG 3Pt FT Pts
Zen Clements 1-3 0-0 1-2 3
Aaron Ferguson 7-18 0-0 3-5 17
Logan McKinney 0-3 0-1 0-0 0
Ashton O'Dell 4-10 1-5 4-6 13
Jay Palmer 1-1 1-1 7-10 10
Logan Angell 0-2 0-0 0-0 0
Ian Southcott 1-3 1-2 0-0 3
Arrien Porterfield 0-1 0-1 0-0 0
Mason Kroll 1-3 0-1 0-0 2