Boys basketball: South Charleston hands Riverside first loss
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston's depth and aggression overwhelmed Riverside in a 69-47 boys basketball win Monday afternoon at St. Albans High School, but a pivotal call early in the game had a considerable hand in the events that followed.
With 1:11 left in the opening quarter and South Charleston (5-1) leading 9-6, Riverside (3-1) senior and leading scorer Tyus Wood was called for a foul while blocking a shot offered by SC's Jordan Lewis.
Without saying a word Wood responded to the close call by jogging toward the opposite end of the court, which drew a technical foul call. Because a technical foul also saddles the charged player with a personal foul, Wood had drawn three personals before the end of the opening quarter.
The loss of their top player for much of what remained in the first half - Wood returned with 3 minutes left in the second quarter - took much of Riverside's early energy away and allowed SC to move in for the kill. Thanks to frantic play on the boards by senior center Anthony Billings, the Class AAA No. 7 Black Eagles had pulled ahead to a 30-18 lead by halftime.
"We've got two seniors that haven't got much playing time because this is the first year they've been eligible," SC coach Vic Herbert said in reference to Billings and Lewis. "I think this team's got nothing but upside, and I don't think you'll be able to measure this team at the end of the year by their win-loss record, because I think by the end they've got a chance to be pretty good."
Billings had 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds while Lewis came off the bench and poured in 12 points. He hit 2-of-4 shots from 3-point range and added four boards.
With 20 total fouls being called in the first half - 12 on South Charleston, which included a technical on Herbert for arguing a call in the second quarter - the Black Eagles were forced to adjust their defensive scheme. Abandoning its familiar man-to-man style, SC began to utilize zone pressure. The team finished with 19 steals.
"When I saw some of that happen we had to go to some zone," Herbert said. "If you figure out early that they're going to call the little stuff sometimes you've got to back off. We had (sophomore guard Brandon Knapper) in foul trouble early and then Billings late, but we played eight or nine guys tonight."
Billings said his approach wasn't affected by the high rate of foul calls.
"We had to go out and be physical. I just went out and played my game," he said. "We've got a lot of people who can score, so we can dominate pretty easily. We've just got to play together and play hard."
South Charleston finished with four players scoring in double figures. Junior forward A.D. Cunningham led all players with 15 points and Knapper hit his last four attempts to finish with 14. Cunningham also had a strong game in the paint, as he finished with seven rebounds.
"That's the way we're going to have to be. We have to share the ball, and we're not going to have a big star on our team. Never have, never will," Herbert said. "I'm tickled to death with having that kind of parity."
First-year Riverside coach Ryan Carter was not of the mind to find a moral victory after the game, and pointed directly to the early technical that set a negative tone.
"We're a young team. We have one senior on the team and he's going to act like that it really shows the team what's going on," Carter said. "Tyus is a good kid and a good guy. He knows what he did wrong. We'll see tomorrow or Wednesday if he changes the person he is."
Wood led the Warriors with 14 points but picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and never got into a shooting groove. He was 4-of-13 from the field.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.