Hurricane's Ace Estep (right) fights for a rebound with Huntington's Arick Nicks.
HURRICANE, W.Va. - In front of a raucous crowd that is slowly warming up to rooting for a legit contender, Hurricane finally warmed up to playing that role and took a big step forward on Thursday.After a season of solid basketball, the Redskins (15-4) may well have notched their best win of the season in a 60-56 victory over Class AAA No. 9 Huntington.In the process, Hurricane clinched no worse than second place in the Mountain State Athletic Conference West Division, which will result in an appearance at the Night of Champions on Feb. 16 at the South Charleston Community Center.The Redskins finished their West slate with a 6-1 mark while first-place South Charleston sits at 5-0 with two games remaining"It feels great, I'm just kind of numb," Redskins coach Lance Sutherland said. "We were hoping and we knew it was either win here or take a bus ride back to Princeton, and that wasn't going to be any fun."It hasn't always been a fun ride throughout Rasaan Harris' career, but on Thursday he had himself a ball at the Highlanders' expense.The senior finished with 23 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. He scored 12 of his points during a tight fourth quarter. The guard hit 9 of his 15 shots from the floor and 5 of 7 free throws."Going into the game we knew it was a big night for us," Harris said. "We were playing with a chip on our shoulder going into tonight. We knew what we wanted to do and wanted to accomplish. I think we did a good job boxing out on the boards. It was a team effort and we pulled through."
Junior post player Henry Sorsaia deserves credit as well as he went for 14 points and nine rebounds while holding Huntington's Arick Nicks to nine points and 10 boards.It was an admirable effort against one of the area's premier big men, and while there were a few occasions Nicks had his way down low, Huntington coach Ron Hess said Nicks' opportunities didn't come often enough."Our shot selection was very poor at the end of the game," Hess said. "[Not getting the ball down low is] what we're talking about on shot selection."Lance does a good job. Their kids were definitely ready to play and they kind of took it to us at the beginning and it took us a while to get going. He's done a good job with that team. They play hard, play good defense and they're very athletic."
Hurricane indeed started out lightning fast, and had it not been for Shaquan Miller, the game could've gotten away in the first period.Miller had 12 points in the first for the Highlanders (12-5), including a stretch of five makes in a row, two of them 3-pointers and almost all of them of the highly contested, high-difficulty variety.His hot shooting helped Huntington narrow a brief 10-point deficit down to two by the end of the period. The lead was never more than six either way for the rest of the game.
Sutherland, who went to school at Hurricane, commended the home crowd."Winning does that," Sutherland said of the big crowd. "We've been here so long when we haven't won. We played Princeton in here Thursday night and there was nowhere near the crowd. Finally the word is getting out. I'm seeing people here that I haven't seen in the gym in ages, which is great."Harris also weighed in, saying that as the community has gotten used to the Redskins winning, so has the team gotten used to big turnouts. "As we've won more games the fan base got bigger, the student section got louder," Harris said. "I think they're used to us winning and we're used to them being loud, so it's kind of an every-game thing now."Miller finished with a team-best 16 points for Huntington while Chancellor Wooding chipped in with 15.The Highlanders hit just 1 of 7 foul shots including 1 for 5 from Nicks.
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