SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A game of runs turned into a war of attrition Saturday night, as Class AAA No. 2 South Charleston outlasted No. 4 Woodrow Wilson 92-86 in overtime to in the Mountain State Athletic Conference boys basketball championship.
A total of six players fouled out of the game in which South Charleston (19-1) overcame a 20-2 Woodrow (15-4) run through the second and third quarters and a 10-point deficit in the second half to reverse the result of the 2013 MSAC title game between the teams.
"I think these kids have found a way to trust each other, to not hang their heads too much ," SC coach Vic Herbert said. "Sometimes you've got call a timeout and get on 'em, but they keep pushing and keep pushing.
"I told them a story there about when I was at Logan and I think it was down at Williamson we were down eight points with 16 seconds left and we won the game, without going to overtime," said Herbert, recalling his time as head of the Wildcat program in the late 1980s and early 1990s. "I told them that's an example of why you should never give up."
The Black Eagles' situation did not look good early in the fourth quarter, when a pair of Dai Dai Fortune free throws gave Woodrow a 10-point lead at 59-49. A three-point play by SC junior A.D. Cunningham that immediately followed, however, served as a harbinger.
Woodrow junior Brent Osborne a hit a 3-pointer in response that again pushed the lead to 10, but Kevin Williams' 3-pointer on SC's return trip knocked the deficit under 10 points for good, and began the process of SC's comeback in earnest.
South Charleston had been put in a vulnerable position when Cunningham drew his third foul with 5:01 remaining in the first half. The Black Eagles led at that point, 25-13, but from that moment until the final moments of regulation Woodrow controlled momentum.
"That was a 36-minute game and we played, what, 20 minutes of that without A.D., our glue," Herbert said. "That was tough."
It appeared for a while that Flying Eagle senior guard Donte Nabors was going to take his turn in the spotlight much the way SC sophomore Brandon Knapper did with a 40-point performance in SC's 74-53 win over Woodrow on Feb. 11. Nabors led all scorers with 31 points and dominated the middle quarters of the game.
However, he missed six consecutive shots in the fourth quarter - along with a pair of free-throw misses - that kept Woodrow from further padding its lead.
That proved to be pivotal. After Williams hit his 3 - part of a 17-point, seven-rebound performance off the bench for the senior - the teams traded free throws until SC sophomore Kentre Grier hit from 3-point range to cut the lead to 64-60 with 4:42 left. A putback by senior Anthony Billings cut the lead to two and a bucket by Cunningham - who fouled out with 42 seconds remaining in regulation - tied the game at 64-64 with 3:36 left.
South Charleston actually led 75-72 with 10 seconds left but Shawn Cunningham missed a pair of free throws, paving the way for a last-second 3-pointer by Nabors that sent the game to overtime.
The extra session also had its ebbs and flows. South Charleston began with a five-point possession off the tip, when Billings converted a three-point play and Woodrow's Nick Deems was whistled for a foul before Woodrow inbounded the ball. It gave Tre Clark a chance to knock down two more free throws before the Flying Eagles had their first possession of overtime.
South Charleston led the rest of the way, and Knapper - who somewhat quietly led South Charleston with 28 points, sank a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game at 90-86 with 19 seconds left.
The teams combined for 69 total free throws.
"I was in foul trouble so I just had to have faith in my teammates," A.D. Cunningham said after he finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds in significantly limited playing time. "I don't care who gets the praise. I could score two points and not worry about that, as long as we're winning."
Billings finished with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Woodrow received 51 points from its backcourt of Nabors and Jaylen Breckenridge, who finished with 21 points.
Herbert said it was Williams' gutsy performance and energy off the bench that was key through the up-and-down game.