HURRICANE, W.Va. - Hurricane's home-court advantage had been almost nonexistent this season.Junior post player Ace Estep got that going in the right direction Thursday night, nailing a 3-pointer with seven-tenths of a second left to give the Redskins a 59-56 upset over state-ranked Princeton. A crowd of about 300 attended the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup.Hurricane (7-2), which was unranked in this week's first regular-season Associated Press poll, had already lost two home games and owned a 1-2 record on its floor."We've struggled a little bit at home,'' said Estep, who finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three steals. "Whenever we get a good crowd and the student section is into the game it just makes us even better. It just kind of carries. We stuck with [Princeton]. We played amazing defense. We held our ground in the fourth quarter.''
The Redskins were ahead 56-50 with 1:45 remaining after Estep's first 3 of the fourth quarter, but the No. 6 Tigers (8-2) forced two straight turnovers and senior guard Ryan Meadows netted four straight points to knot the game at 56-all with 27.5 seconds to go. Meadows stole the ball in the backcourt and went in for an easy layup, then finished it off with a jumper. Meadows hit a fade-away jumper at the 1:01 mark as he tallied Princeton's last six points.After several passes, Hurricane senior Ian Miles drove down the lane toward the basket then passed the ball at the last second to Estep, who was stationed in the corner. "I just posted up in the corner and I thought Ian was going to take it to the basket, but he kicked it out to me and I knew time was running out so I just shot the ball and it went in,'' Estep said. "It came out smooth. The [Princeton player] defended me well, but I got a good look at it.''
Hurricane's players and several students mobbed Estep after the horn sounded."It was scary,'' said Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland, whose team committed only 11 turnovers. "We got stupid real quick. We played smart, then I don't know what happened."We finally played smart and did what we're supposed to do and we had a wide-open shot and it went in. I liked it.''
Garrett DeFries paced Hurricane off the bench with 14 points, knocking down 3 of 5 3-pointers and all three of his free-throw attempts, while senior center Henry Sorsaia added 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists even though he sat out the final 3:17 of the third quarter and the first couple of minutes of the fourth period after picking up his fourth foul.Redskins senior guard Rasaan Harris chipped in six points, five assists and six boards and Miles finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block."The last three years we haven't played well down here,'' said Princeton coach Ernie Gilliard. "We've been in sort of a funk. We've never had a good rhythm."The last two years they've beaten us with the exact same shot from the exact same spot with time running out. My hat's off to Coach Sutherland and his kids. They're a very scrappy team. Anytime you're able to go to Logan and beat Logan on their home floor, that tells people you're a pretty good basketball team.''Sutherland said he feels his squad is just beginning to tap into its capabilities. Hurricane owns victories at Logan and Capital and now over Princeton.
"They've been together the whole three years I've been here,'' the Hurricane coach said. "They're jelling real good and know what each other's doing. They played in the summer and all fall. They're reading and reacting to each other and playing great.''Meadows finished with a game-high 18 points but on 6 of 18 shooting with five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Princeton's Hunter Walters pitched in 13 points and seven boards and Aaron Ferguson donated 11 points and 10 rebounds.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.