POCA - Since Bill McClanahan arrived at Charleston Catholic 12 years ago, the Irish have parlayed a gritty, grinding style into a lot of victories and three Class A state championships.
But nobody's been at that sort of game longer than Poca coach Allen Osborne, and it showed Friday night.
The Dots worked their way to a big lead by halftime and held on through some rough patches for a 45-41 victory. Matt Chandler scored 13 points and Noah Frampton 12 to pace Poca (3-1).
The closest the Irish could come in the final 21/2 quarters was at 43-41 when Nick George made 1 of 2 free throws with 15 seconds remaining. Frampton sank a pair at the line with 11 seconds left, however, to bump the lead back to four.
The Dots held Catholic to 41 percent shooting and forced many of the 16 turnovers by the Irish.
"On the positive side, I thought we played well defensively,'' Osborne said. "We got back in the second half and took away some of the baskets they got in the first half. But we've got to work on our inbound plays and get the ball inbounded. We struggled there, and that's my fault. Those hurt us.''
A 6-foot-4 junior all-stater, George (22 points, six rebounds) beat the Dots downfloor four times for layups during the game until Osborne made a defensive change.
Poca also committed six of its 11 turnovers in the final period as the Irish kept chipping away at deficits as high as 12 points. Two of those miscues were back-to-back five-second inbound violations with less than two minutes left as each team took turns clamping down defensively and forcing mistakes.
The Dots, though, have been playing that way for a lot longer than the Irish.
"I don't know about that,'' Osborne said, "but our kids played hard and we're real proud of them. We didn't play well and didn't shoot well against Tolsia [in a Tuesday loss] but we had a good effort coming back against a really good team.