"We just had a mental breakdown there,'' Means said, "and it's something we talked about, staying home on defense, because we know they like to make those runs up the middle, and that's exactly what happened.
"We got out of position and they had a guy streaking down the middle and played it in to him and he got a goal out of it. That was one of the few mental breakdowns we had all game, and it cost us. But you can't put that on the kids. They were giving it all they could.''
Indeed, South Charleston didn't go away when GW took first-half leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on scores by Davis (a header off Nelson's corner kick) and Daniel Glines (assist Nelson).
The Black Eagles knotted it at 2-all by halftime with goals by Cosby off a corner kick and a beauty by Hayden Warnock following another free kick by Harris from midfield. Harris' long boot caught Warnock perfectly on the dead run down the right sideline and he drilled the ball home with 1:14 remaining before halftime.
"That was something we started working on last year, really, with our athleticism,'' Means said. "We can get up in the air and get our head on the ball.''
GW, which had 15 seniors on its roster compared to SC's five, controlled the ball the majority of the time and finished with an 8-4 edge in shots on goal.
It marked the second straight win for GW over SC in the sectional finals, after last year's match went to penalty kicks. In 2010, the Black Eagles knocked off the Patriots in the sectional semifinals 2-0.
"We know when we get to the sectionals, it's going to be tough,'' Hopper said. "We made it hard on ourselves today with some critical fouls at the wrong time and there was a little bit of miscommunication back there.''
For SC, it was another close but disappointing loss in a bid to make the regionals.
"We came out with a game plan,'' Means said, "and the kids stuck to it and executed it pretty well. GW hasn't been beat all season and has been one of the best teams I've seen since I started coaching five years ago.
"We had them on the ropes. We had them down in the second half and got some bad breaks again. It didn't go our way and they pulled it out, and that's what a good team does. We had our keeper [Jacob Gordon] go out with a head injury and come back in and fight for us. We threw in a keeper [Brian Stevens] we hadn't played all year. Some tough situations we had to overcome, but we fought the whole way.''
Gordon twice sat out a few minutes after a big first-half collision with GW's Noah Miller that left both players momentarily stunned and prone on the turf. Miller also returned.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.