POCA, W.Va. - Allen Osborne won't tell you his second-ranked Poca Dots aren't the most artistic 13-1 team in high school basketball.But after slugging out another tough Cardinal Conference win, 36-32 over Herbert Hoover Saturday night, there is one thing certain: The Dots are getting results.Any way they can. "Hoover's pretty good defensively and we just didn't get good looks at the basket. We were fortunate to win the game," Osborne said. "We made them work to score, also. I was pleased with that."Eight for 17 from the line, had a couple of turnovers, wasn't one of our better performances. We just found a way to win; that's what this team's been good at this year."The Dots didn't shoot well from anywhere, making an even 30 percent from the field and 4 of 21 from 3-point range. The Huskies shot a seemingly dominant 55.6 percent from the floor.So how did the Dots overcome a 13-5 first-quarter deficit, take a 28-21 lead after three quarters and hang on at the end?First, they forced Hoover (8-5) into 15 turnovers. Second, while Hoover won the rebounding battle 26-16 overall, the Dots had a 6-1 advantage on the offensive boards through three quarters. Those two factors allowed Poca 13 more field goal attempts, 40 to 27.
And then there was the advantage at the free-throw line, one that the Dots nearly squandered with that 8 of 17. Hoover had two free throws in the first quarter and three in the fourth, hitting just two.Despite all that, the Huskies stayed alive deep into the final minute.Six-foot-6 Cody Morris, who led Hoover with 11 points, hit three quick baskets to open the final period on a tap-in, a turnaround jumper and a smooth hook shot. Suddenly it was 28-27 and the game was on.By the grace of the officiating crew, neither Osborne nor Hoover coach Jeff Gandee were "T'd up" in this one. Noah Frampton scored two of his game-high 14 points to make it 30-27 and the Huskies were called for a foul after the shot.Gandee, perhaps initially thinking Frampton's jumper was a 3-pointer and a four-point play was in the offing, yelled, "Get the fire hose on! Make it easy to blow me out of here!"
Poca was then whistled for three quick fouls, the last coming on an inbound pass. On that play, Osborne thought the inbound count was awfully slow. He bellowed, "Can't you count to five?"It was an intense final four minutes, and both teams were feeling it at the line - Poca missed six free throws and Hoover missed two down the stretch, and they all hurt.
But Hoover was hurt more by three critical turnovers. Down 33-30, the Huskies got the ball into Morris, which didn't just draw a double-team. Two Dots collapsed on him to force a triple-team, and Morris coughed up the ball."We wanted to make somebody else beat us. He's such a good player, he draws a lot of attention," Osborne said.The Dots gave it back, committing just their fifth turnover of the game. But after Hoover took a timeout, Joey Forbes lost the ball to Poca's Jacob Payne, putting the Dots into the double bonus with 53.9 seconds left.Payne split his pair of free throws to make it 34-30, and Forbes answered with a potential three-point play with 31.6 left. But he missed the foul shot and the Huskies had to foul.Not that it was a bad thing for Hoover, with Cam Cottrill missing the first of his two free throws with 25.4 seconds left. That gave Poca a 35-32 lead, keeping the Huskies alive.But as the Huskies were setting up their next shot, Frampton stepped in to steal a pass and essentially end the suspense. He was fouled by necessity and hit the second free throw to set the final score with 15.6 seconds left.
Gandee tried not to say much about the disparity in free throws, though it was a struggle. He clearly was not happy about that, but also said his Huskies beat themselves in some ways."We had some blown defensive assignments in the second half, and they were able to hit some 3s off of them," he said. "The turnovers were critical."That was a factor in the game. Otherwise it that was a well-played game on both sides, both teams played hard, very evenly matched teams. We're a little bigger, obviously; they're probably a little more skilled around the perimeter. It was a hard-fought game."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.