State Tournament: Tucker County grinds out 68-61 win
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tucker County saw its string of four consecutive Class A state semifinal appearances come to a grinding halt with an opening-round state tournament loss last season.
On Wednesday night the fourth-seeded Mountain Lions (21-3) shot themselves back into familiar territory in a 68-61 win over fifth-seeded Greater Beckley Christian (19-6) in the quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center.
Tucker County, playing in its 12th straight state tournament, advances to the semifinals, where it will square off against No. 1 Tug Valley (23-3) at 1 p.m. Friday.
Tucker County shot 48.3 percent in the first half, including a 7-of-15 from 3-point range to build a lead that reached as high as 18 points late in the half.
"In the first half, defensively, we got out of what we do," Greater Beckley Coach Dan Burd said. "We gave up a lot of threes in the first two quarters."
Tucker Coach Tom Gutshall was obviously pleased with his team's effort, especially in the first half.
"In the half I thought we executed really well offensively, I really did," Gutshall said. "I thought the kids were patient and I though the kids made the shots when we ran our offense. They were switching inside and that's why we were popping out and taking the three.
"Our kids probably played as well offensively in the first half as we've played all year."
Tucker County's Tyler Snyder tallied 15 first-half points en route to a game-high 22 points, while Ian Nichols contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Austin Zirk finished with 16 points for the Mountain Lions.
While Tucker County blistered the nets in the first half, Greater Beckley struggled from the field in connecting on just 39.3 percent of its shots, which included a 0-of-8 effort from behind the arc before the half.
Gutshall believes that his team's vast tournament experience helped, especially early in the game.
"We've shot here and these kids have been here all four years of their careers and all of them have played on the Civic Center floor, which does make a difference," Gutshall said. "Our kids were relaxed and I think we play a little tougher defense that a lot of people are used to.
"Our kids play tough, I've got to give them credit."
Greater Beckley rallied in the second half, cutting Tucker's lead to just five midway through the third quarter, but could get no closer than six points in the final quarter.
Javonne Staunton-Bailey led Greater Beckley with 17 points, followed by Elisha Kidd with 14 points and Keith Mullins with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"We gave up a lot of threes in the first two quarters and we addressed that at halftime," said Burd, whose team hit just one 3-pointer in the second half. "I thought we came out, we battled and I thought our guys didn't give up.
"We played great defense in the second half. We didn't give up the threes we gave up in the first half, it just came down to we just couldn't cut into the lead."