Youthful SC belts Princeton
South Charleston's season opener came a bit later than most, and the Black Eagles were more than eager to get going Wednesday night.
They did so in style, forcing nine turnovers in the first quarter against visiting Princeton, taking a 17-2 lead and dominating 88-49 at South Charleston Community Center.
Sophomore point guard Brandon Knapper is filling some big shoes vacated by Ra'Shaud Kincaid, who graduated and is now playing at WVU Tech. So far, so good, as he poured in 24 points, 10 in that first period.
"Ra'Shaud was a great point guard and I'm trying to keep that going," Knapper said. "We were hungry. We were getting tired of playing against each other in practice and practicing and we were ready. We were really ready."
Knapper added a handful of steals on a night in which the Black Eagles forced 25 turnovers and shot 33 of 66 from the field. Knapper contributed three of the Eagles' seven 3-pointers.
A.D. Cunningham added 12 points for South Charleston and Kentre Grier chipped in 11, with 11 different players scoring at least two.
All of them contributed to the South Charleston pressure, which kept Princeton's guards surrounded the entire game.
"Ninety-five percent of the time, we may not look very good but we're going to play hard," SC coach Vic Herbert said. "We're going to get after you or we'll find guys on the bench that will do it if the ones that start out don't want to.
"That pressure was pretty devastating. We had spurts where we had the right combo in there when they weren't getting it over half court."
Indeed, the Tigers (0-3) were able to do some nice things on the inside, with big man Aaron Ferguson going for 17 points and 10 rebounds, but they struggled to get into their offensive sets and get the ball to the post.
"We've got to value the ball — we've got to learn how to take care of it," Princeton coach Ernie Gilliard said. "When we have these turnovers early and we allow these teams to get the runs on us, it's difficult. Our shooting hasn't developed well enough to where we can play catch-up and catch-up is always tough whether you've got good shooters or not."
SC led 26-7 at the end of the first quarter, and Princeton could not cut the deficit lower than 16 points. The Black Eagles reeled off a 19-2 run to finish the game.
South Charleston lost seven seniors off of last year's squad, which made the Class AAA semifinals before falling to Woodrow Wilson. Herbert didn't quite know what to expect coming into this year and while he was ecstatic with Wednesday's result, he is still expecting growing pains.
"I was tickled to death — I wasn't expecting this the first time out," Herbert said. "To tell the truth, I thought we were pretty mediocre till tonight just because of losing all those guys from last year. I felt like it was going to be a work in progress; hopefully six, eight, 10 games in we'll be OK and I still think that.
"This thing here I think it was just kind of an anomaly. It was just something that happened that really doesn't show where we're at as a basketball team."
Ashton O'Dell contributed 13 points for the Tigers and Jay Palmer scored 10.
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