CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston Catholic held on to a lead it built through the first half against Linsly on Saturday night when the teams took a break for halftime.
The Irish (4-1) weren't as fortunate in the second half. Catholic played the role of a car that couldn't quite make it to the gas station in the fourth quarter, giving up an 11-point lead in falling to the Cadets (2-3) 56-53 at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Complex.
Linsly, which was making its second stop of a two-day weekend road swing that saw the Cadets lose at Parkersburg South on Friday night, chipped away at the lead throughout the fourth quarter starting when sophomore forward Colton Coss drained a 3-pointer that cut Catholic's lead to 44-37 with about 6:30 left in the game. It was Coss' third consecutive make from 3-point range, as he assumed primary scoring duties for Linsly when the team's leading scorer, Anthony Wallace, went to the bench with four fouls after being assessed a technical for taunting with 1:57 left in the third.
Coss and sophomore forward Erick Taylor were instrumental in Linsly's comeback after the Cadets trailed for most of the game. They took their first lead with 27.8 seconds left when Wallace converted a 3-point play to make it 55-53.
Coss had 14 points and led the team with six rebounds and three steals. Taylor's physicality helped Linsly dominate the paint, and he had eight points and four rebounds off the bench. Linsly won the rebounding battle 32-26 and the Cadets shot 50 percent from the floor after a miserable 4-for-19 showing in the opening quarter.
"Those are some younger guys who are forming into some newer roles for us than they have in the past," Linsly coach James Wallace said. "They really stepped up today and embraced it. They seem to really enjoy playing in big games against great teams, and Charleston Catholic is a great team, a great program and we've got a lot of respect for them."
Catholic coach Bill McClanahan was considerably less flattering in his assessment of the Irish. Of Catholic's 42 shot attempts, 29 were taken by seniors Nick George and Garret McCarty. The duo accounted for 39 points with McCarty leading all players with 22 points. The senior point guard was 5-of-10 from 3-point range, which included a 27-foot swish to end the third quarter.
However, Linsly placed the taller, athletic Anthony Wallace on McCarty when Catholic was suddenly forced into catch-up mode. McCarty's last-second 3-point attempt was challenged by the defender, who only allowed McCarty an off-balance look at the bucket from the left wing. His shot fell well short, hanging a loss on the Irish for the first time this season.
"We have been very fortunate over the years to have basketball teams that are hard-working and smart and fundamentally sound and unselfish," McClanahan said. "I was never really comfortable that this team fully understands and appreciates those princples.
"We saw the result of that in not only the way the game finished, but in the way the game was played, especially in the fourth quarter. Those are things that are just uncharacteristic of this program, and we're going to have to fix."
George had 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Catholic outscored Linsly 35-23 in the first and third quarters, but was on the short end of 33-18 count in the second and fourth quarters.
Much of that development was thanks to the increased activity of Linsly players not named Wallace. The senior averages 19 points per game but was 1-for-11 from the floor in the first quarter. Once he found his way into foul trouble players like Coss and Taylor saw the ball in their hands more frequently, with positive results.