Defense, rebounds carry SC past Hurricane
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- On Friday night, South Charleston notched one of its most impressive wins in one of the most unimpressive shooting performances it's turned in all year.
The Black Eagles struggled with their shot all night, going 0 for 14 from 3-point range and shooting under 33 percent for the game, but were able to rely on frenzied defense and a relentless assault on the glass to pull away from host Hurricane 59-52 in a battle of Class AAA top 10 teams.
When SC and coach Vic Herbert realized it wasn't going to be their night offensively, they simply clamped down on defense and stymied the No. 10 Redskins.
"Defensively we did a pretty good job," Herbert said. "We went to a zone [after halftime]. We played a 2-3 and extended a little bit but most of it was a packed-in 2-3 and we wanted to see if they could make some outside shots while we were contesting them. They just didn't make any that quarter."
Technically, Hurricane (8-4) did make one. Rasaan Harris buried a 3 with under 30 seconds left in the third period, representing the Redskins' first and only field goal of the quarter.
And while South Charleston managed only a 9-5 scoring advantage in the third, it was enough to break a 30-30 tie at the break and send the Black Eagles on their way.
Despite the switch to zone, Hurricane still didn't get many open looks. Instead, No. 2 South Charleston constantly swarmed into passing lanes and pressured Hurricane into an up-tempo style that clearly favored the Black Eagles, who forced 21 Hurricane turnovers.
Black Eagles forward Hunter Moles said Herbert delivered the message of defense loud and clear at halftime.
"I think it was all defense," Moles said. "As a team we weren't getting on people quick enough. They pushed the ball a little bit and it was all about getting a hand on shots and not letting them get open shots.
"Coach Herbert really wanted us to push it on defense. He said, 'Defense is going to win you this game, guys.' We started pressing it, got into a little different defense, got our hands up more and just got a little bit more aggressive."
Moles scored 11 points and was a perfect 7 for 7 from the free-throw line, but more importantly was a big part of a SC rebounding attack that consistently provided second shots for the offense and limited Hurricane to one-and-dones on the other end.
Moles had eight rebounds, as did A.D. Cunningham, while Neal Brown had nine and Kevin Williams a game-best 10 for South Charleston, despite Hurricane having a distinct height advantage.
"If you look at the guys we start, [Moles] is 6-foot-2, A.D. and Neal Brown are around 5-11 and my two guards are 5-8, 5-9 so we've got four guys under 6-foot in the starting lineup," Herbert said. "But we're pretty tenacious on the boards. We're athletic and we get after it on the glass."
While South Charleston struggled to find its stroke all night, Hurricane was able to bury a decent number of its shots, hitting 19 of 42 field goals and going 10 for 21 from 3-point range.
But between the rebounding advantage and turnovers forced, the Black Eagles (10-1) were able to get up 20 more shots and attempted 18 more free throws than Hurricane, both statistics that directly influenced the final score.
This week, the No. 10 Redskins found themselves ranked for the first time this season but will most likely fall out after a narrow loss at George Washington on Wednesday coupled with Friday's loss to SC.
Hurricane has just missed racking up a signature win a few times this year and seems close to turning the proverbial corner. Coach Lance Sutherland senses his squad is almost there.
"Yeah, we are [close to turning the corner]," Sutherland said. "I'm not mad that we lost. We make a few layups here and a few foul shots there and that's the game. We were in the game. In years past we'd get beat by 40, 50, 60, whatever. This year we were right there with them and had a very good chance to win the game."
To his point, Hurricane made just 4 of its 10 free throws.
Cunningham had a game-high 13 points for SC while Brown tossed in 11.
Trey Dawson led the way with 12 points for Hurricane while Garrett DeFries provided a spark off the bench with 11. Rasaan Harris scored 10 points for the Redskins.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/Rpritt.