Riverside's Tamar Lawson (right) grabs the arm of South Charleston's Hunter Moles on a shot attempt.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It didn't happen all at once, and it didn't look exactly the same as before, but South Charleston pretty much wound up in just about the same spot again.Winning going away, that is.Hunter Moles kept up his recent torrid pace, dropping in 17 points, and A.D. Cunningham powered his way for 13 as the Black Eagles wore down Riverside 80-50 in the Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 finals Friday night at the SC Community Center.The win sends the Black Eagles (22-2) into the Region 3 co-finals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at home against Greenbrier East (20-4), which lost to Woodrow Wilson 80-48 in Region 3 Section 2 on Friday. SC thumped East 67-41 at the Community Center on Feb. 21.
The Black Eagles, ranked No. 3 in AAA, didn't overwhelm the Warriors with a flurry of steals, as they've done to some recent opponents. They forced 34 in Wednesday's sectional semifinal victory over Capital and turned over Greenbrier East 28 times a little over a week ago.Riverside had only seven turnovers at halftime and was shooting better than 50 percent as it trailed 39-27. However, that didn't last long. SC scored 23 of the game's next 28 points to break the game open, bumping its advantage to 30."Our pressure made them take bad shots,'' said SC coach Vic Herbert. "They couldn't really get a good look. We were also able to force them out of the stuff that they ran. Basically they had to ball screen to get into anything."Thirdly, I think, was our depth. We kept putting guys in. We were fresh and they were dragging because they didn't have the depth we had coming off the bench.''Riverside hit just 1 of 7 shots in the third quarter and committed five of its 16 turnovers."You put pressure on teams,'' Moles said, "and they're not going to have time to do what they usually do. That's what's good about our team. We can make people play faster than they want to.''South Charleston saw 12 different players score, and its bench outscored the starters 28-13 in the second half.That's without Neal Brown (a starter all year) and Kevin Williams (a top reserve), who didn't play for the second straight game because of suspensions, and are reportedly off the team for the rest of the season.South Charleston was sharp in many areas, shooting 52 percent for the game (the starters shot 59 percent), outrebounding the taller Warriors 30-23 and suffering a mere five turnovers."If we're making our 3-pointers, we're pretty hard to beat,'' Herbert said. "What it does to people is they've got to come out on us. The theory [defending] us is to back it up in there and see if we can shoot. If everything's clogged up inside, it takes the driving lanes away, which is what we're best at. If we can hit our 3s, then they've got to come out, and it opens things for our drives.''It marked the 12th time this season that the Black Eagles won by at least 20 points.
Chad Metten, Riverside's interim coach, marveled at SC's intensity."Their press is amazing,'' Metten said. "They play hard, and they know what to do with it. You get a couple turnovers in a row and they score, and it's big momentum."They straight outplayed us tonight. They played way harder than we did, and got every loose ball. Honestly, they wanted it more than we did. We settled down a little bit, but couldn't get over the hump. Great teams like that know how to put it away, and they put us away.''Riverside (9-15), meanwhile, is not eliminated from the postseason, but hits the road to Beckley to face Woodrow on Tuesday. The Flying Eagles (20-4) have won 16 in a row, including an 88-45 rout of Riverside on Feb. 7.On Friday, the Warriors received 16 points from senior low post Nick Light and 13 from senior guard Marcus Reed.Riverside's players had several hand-written inspirational messages scrawled on their warmup shirts worn during the pregame shootaround. Among the messages was "Free Dusty.''
Dusty Herscher, the Warriors' second-year coach, and most of his staff were suspended indefinitely about a month ago for unspecified reasons. Principal Valery Harper has turned mum on the subject, not returning repeated calls from the Gazette on the team's coaching situation.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.