HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- When the pressure's on, that's when South Charleston is at its best.
The Black Eagles forced 23 turnovers, most of them with pressure defense, and rode the wave to a 66-46 victory over Huntington Tuesday night in a battle of state-ranked Class AAA teams.
Devyn Harris led SC, the state's No. 1 team, with 20 points, knocking down 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Neal Brown added 10 points, but 16 steals were the telling stat for the Black Eagles (12-1).
"We laid in the press most of the time, and it did what we wanted it to do,'' said SC coach Vic Herbert. "People have really struggled against our pressure - the 2-2-1 and the 1-2-1-1. We felt like that's what worked tonight.''
The victory, the 35th in a row for SC in a Mountain State Athletic Conference game, was doubly important because it puts the Black Eagles in the driver's seat as far as the MSAC West Division.
South Charleston has now beaten the only two teams in the West that had winning records coming into Tuesday (Hurricane and Huntington), and the only two division teams that have been state-ranked this season. SC has five division games left, but is now the odds-on favorite to earn a spot in the title game at the MSAC Night of Champions.
The Black Eagles carved out a 28-19 halftime lead, inducing 11 Highlanders turnovers in the process, then broke the game open in the third quarter.
With No. 7 Huntington (9-3) still within striking distance at 29-22, South Charleston ripped off nine straight points and the Highlanders took a timeout at the 3:37 mark, trailing 38-22.
The momentum didn't flinch, however, as SC came up with two straight steals and bumped the margin to 43-22, causing Huntington coach Ron Hess to signal for another timeout just 50 seconds later.
"I'm just surprised at how we played,'' said Hess, whose team doubled its pregame turnover average. "We've been playing well the last couple weeks, and we were looking forward to this game.
"For some reason, we were just hesitant when they came to double team us. We didn't attack when we broke their pressure. We let them come double us again instead of attacking their pressure. We threw way too many lob passes tonight, and you can't throw those against a team as quick and athletic as them. And that's my fault. We weren't aggressive enough tonight as we should have been.''