Defense lifts Poca past Hoover 43-28
POCA, W.Va. - Defense, as the cliche goes, wins championships, and that is exactly what happened at Poca on Friday.
The Dots stymied the Herbert Hoover offense and rode timely shooting to a 43-28 win to capture the Class AA Region 4 Section 1 boys basketball championship. It is Poca's third consecutive and 25th overall sectional title.
The Huskies (14-10) grabbed an early 2-0 lead - their only lead of the game - and were playing catch-up the rest of the way.
Poca nudged in front thanks to forcing four turnovers in the Huskies' first five possessions and took an 11-6 lead to end the first quarter. Both teams caused problems for the other on offense in the second quarter, but where Poca (17-6) would force Hoover into a turnover or bad shot, Hoover could not do the same to the Dots.
"Our defense was outstanding," Poca coach Allen Osborne said. "We didn't give them any easy shots or easy looks. I thought Jake Payne did a great job on the boards early and we were able to keep them off the boards."
Hoover cut Poca's lead to 20-17 late in the quarter before Payne hit a jumper from the right wing at the buzzer to give the Dots a five-point lead at halftime.
"Even good defenses, after 35, 40 seconds, will break down," Hoover coach Jeff Gandee said. "We had several series on our defensive side playing them strong for 35 or 40 seconds. We have one breakdown and bang, there you go. When we try to force things and don't try to make them work, we don't get a chance to capitalize."
The Huskies again had trouble hanging on to the ball early in the third quarter and went nearly five minutes without a basket at one point. Poca capitalized and had several long possessions that appeared to wear down the Hoover defenders.
Both teams got an extra breather during the period when a water cooler on the Huskies' bench was knocked over during play. Play was halted for around five minutes while officials and staff cleaned the water off the floor. The break, however, did not do much to reignite the Hoover offense. The Huskies managed just four points in the quarter and trailed 29-21 entering the fourth.
"We were right there and it was 25-21, we break down and give them a layup, then we gamble with three seconds to go at halfcourt and all you have to do is play defense," Gandee said. "We gamble again and they get a layup and it goes from 25-21 to 29-21 and now you've got a struggle."
Poca's Matt Chandler led all scorers with 16 points, including 12 in the first half. Cam Cottrill picked up the slack on offense for Poca late in the game, getting to the line and making his foul shots. Cottrill finished with seven points, all of which came in the fourth quarter.
"Matt made some really big plays in the first quarter, made some easy baskets and had a nice drive in the second half," Osborne said. "We handled the ball well and did enough to win. We do a lot of things that don't show up [in the scorebook]. They screen, they cut, they make free throws. We're just glad to be playing at home and we're 32 minutes from Charleston."
Cody Morris led Herbert Hoover with 10 points while Sam Schoolcraft and Aaron Burdette each chipped in with seven points. In their last meeting, Morris lit the Dots up for 23 points in Hoover's 46-45 overtime win. This time, Osborne said keeping the Huskies' forward in check was a main priority for his team.
"He had 23 against us the last time, so we wanted to focus on him and make sure he didn't hurt us on the boards," he said. "I'm really proud of these guys."
Hoover's 28 points were the fewest the team has scored since a season-opening loss 42-24 loss at Chapmanville. As a team, the Huskies shot 12 of 28 and 0 of 4 from 3-point range. Gandee said his team was never able to settle into its game plan and get comfortable, and when that happens the results can be predictable.
"We didn't execute our game plan offensively," he said. "We wanted to be really patient and we weren't patient early. We turned the ball over and tried to force things. That doesn't work well for us. Our formula for success is to be patient and try to get what we want, don't force passes if it's not there. If you don't get shots, you can't score."
Poca hosts the loser of tonight's Region 4 Section 2 title game between Scott and Tolsia, while Herbert Hoover travels to play the winner of that game. Both are on Wednesday.
Osborne, the longtime Dots coach, said that while there was still work to do for his team to achieve its ultimate goal, winning the section and taking another step toward the Charleston Civic Center was not any less sweet no matter how many times he has led a team to this point.
"It gets better," he said.
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.