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Hurricane comeback falls short

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lucky No. 7 finally ran out of gas.

Andrew Johnson scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to fend off a furious Hurricane comeback attempt Wednesday afternoon, leading No. 2 seed Woodrow Wilson to a 63-54 victory in the Class AAA quarterfinals at the Civic Center. The day session attracted a paid crowd of 7,419.

It marked the 18th straight victory for the Flying Eagles (22-4) and sent them into Friday's 9 p.m. semifinals against the winner of tonight's game between South Charleston and Morgantown.

"It's the state tournament,'' Johnson said. "There ain't gonna be no gimmes. You've got to work for everything at this point of the season.''

The loss brought an end to a landmark season for the Redskins (20-6), who were appearing in their first state tournament. For a while, it seemed like they were channeling the success experienced by last year's AAA No. 7 seed, Hedgesville, which upset three higher seeds to capture its first state title since 1970.

The two state-ranked teams treated the large crowd to a fast-paced game that was knotted at halftime at 32-all. Woodrow, however, bumped its lead as high as 12 points at 48-36 near the end of the third quarter, then had to hold on in the face of a Redskins rally.

Buoyed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Trey Dawson, Hurricane shaved its deficit down to 53-52 on an Ian Miles free throw with 3:17 left and had a couple possessions that could have provided the lead, but couldn't connect.

Donte Nabors, who suffered through an on-and-off game (5-of-21 shooting, six turnovers) then drained a 3-pointer from the left corner, freshman Nequan Carrington got an offensive rebound, drew a foul and hit a free throw and Johnson swished four straight at the line to make it 61-52 with 48 seconds left.

"I thought we were playing at their pace a little bit,'' said Woodrow coach Ron Kidd. "Even though it was fast, it was the way they wanted to play. We just had to get a whole lot tougher on defense.''

Hurricane just couldn't string together enough positive plays in the final quarter.

The Redskins probably thought they could improve their efficiency from the first half (37 percent shooting, 25 percent on 3s, nine turnovers), but they really didn't. In the second half, they shot 21 percent, 20 percent on 3s and had eight more turnovers. They ended up 7 of 31 from long range and missed 11 free throws.

"We hustled,'' said Hurricane senior point guard Rasaan Harris. "We busted our butts the whole game. Sometimes we had spurts where shots just wouldn't go in.

"Beckley's an athletic team - fast, big and strong. I think we handled it well for most of the way, but we'd get stationary. We wouldn't move. There was no movement in our offense, and that hurt us at times.''

Redskins coach Lance Sutherland said the outcome was much like an 83-66 loss to Woodrow Wilson early in the regular season when a second-half surge fell short.

"It was déjà vu all over again,'' Sutherland said. "We had good shots, good looks, but we used a lot of energy [coming back].

"We had all the confidence in the world we could make it a game, and we did make it a game. We thought we could come back because we've been doing it all year. It was a game of punches. We took Beckley's punches pretty well and played our butts off. It was a fun game to be involved with. One of those games that could have gone either way, but went their way.''

Kidd knew he had one big thing going in his favor to start the second half. Chase Hancock, a 6-foot-3 junior and the team's No. 2 scorer on the season, played only five minutes in the first half because he picked up his second foul. He managed to tally 11 points in that brief span, however.

With Hancock on the floor to begin the second half, the Flying Eagles took off.

"If you'll look, it was 32-32 at the half and we had Chase on the bench in foul trouble,'' Kidd said. "We come out in the third quarter and scored eight, nine quick points because of his defense. We need to keep him on the floor as much as possible because he just generates enthusiasm on both ends of the floor.''

Nabors finished with 15 points for Woodrow Wilson and Hancock had 13 with five steals. Johnson dished out six assists.

Dawson led Hurricane with 16 points and six steals, and Harris added 14 points and three thefts.

Hurricane's Henry Sorsaia, one of the team's top players, was held scoreless in the first half because of foul trouble and ended the game with eight points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes.

Woodrow won despite shooting only 35.5 percent and committing 16 turnovers.

"They came with a good game plan,'' Kidd said of the Redskins. "You've got to look out once he really gets that program going.''

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

 


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