SC girls knock off No. 2 Logan
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston offered up a glimpse of what may be to come Wednesday night.
The young Black Eagles played toe-to-toe with Logan, last season's Class AAA state runner-up, then when the pressure became the greatest overtook the Wildcats for a 63-59 victory. A crowd of about 800 attended the Class AAA matchup at South Charleston High School.
Sophomore center Monica Mitchell's layup gave the Wildcats, who were tied for second in the Associated Press preseason poll, their final lead at 59-58 with 2:28 left in the game. After that, the Black Eagles (2-1) closed out the game, scoring the final five points.
"It'll build us up mentally,'' SC junior guard Lina Villanueva, who is one of only two juniors in the starting lineup along with two freshmen and a sophomore, said of the victory over Logan.
"Winning this game just made it seem like we're really good as a team whenever we all have our heads in the game and not pouting. We really wanted this win. Whenever we saw somebody down we just picked them up and keep everybody focused positive so we can get the 'W.' ''
Freshman center Rhea Smith scored the last of her 10 fourth-quarter points on a layup as SC seized the edge for good at 60-59 with 2:08 to go. Freshman point guard Aaliyah Dunham sank the front and back ends of a 1-plus-1 free-throw situation as SC stretched its margin to three points (62-59) at the 1:37 mark.
After Black Eagles freshman forward Bri Moore came up with a steal, the Wildcats were forced to foul. Logan junior guard Summer Collins grabbed SC freshman shooting guard Shy-Anne Dunham, but because Collins didn't make a play on the ball the referee called an intentional foul, giving Dunham two foul shots and SC the possession after that. Dunham, though, missed twice from the charity stripe and then, after another foul by Logan, Black Eagles sophomore forward Taliah Cashwell followed with two more misfires at the foul line with 22.4 seconds left.
Logan junior guard Shayna Gore, who had her coming-out party at the state tournament last year after pouring in 36 points in her debut and missing the single-game mark by seven points, was called for a carry after grabbing the rebound on Cashwell's second missed foul shot, giving the ball to SC. This time Shy-Anne Dunham hit the back end of a two-shot free throw as the Black Eagles seized a 63-59 edge with 15.5 seconds left.
Logan junior guard Kyra Cline missed a 3-pointer and, after Mitchell corralled the rebound, she turned it over in the lane as SC dribbled out the final seconds.
Aaliyah Dunham finished with a team-high 15 points while Villanueva added 11 and Smith 10 - all in the fourth quarter. SC's Cashwell contributed six points, four rebounds and two steals, Shy-Anne Dunham turned in eight points, four boards and five steals and Moore had seven points, four rebounds and two steals.
SC forced 28 turnovers, which made up for a minus-17 (41-24) rebounding disadvantage. The Black Eagles only turned the ball over 10 times and just four times in the second half.
"We're still trying to find ourselves to a certain extent,'' said SC coach Gary Greene, who returned to the bench after a one-year hiatus. "I thought tonight the kids had good chemistry. Unselfish play all three [of our] games.''
Logan, which opened its season Wednesday, is adjusting to life with a bull's-eye on its back after making a run to last season's Class AAA state title game - its first in school history - before falling to Parkersburg South.
"I think by the end of the year we will be a top-five team without a doubt,'' said Logan coach Kevin Gertz, who saw his team miss 14 foul shots Wednesday. "We've had such a big turnover and lost so many kids that have played together all their lives.
"These kids have never played together - three of them have and the rest of them haven't. They're going to have to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses and grow.''
Gore finished with 25 points, five rebounds and three assists for Logan while Mitchell turned in 15 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Greene guided the Black Eagles to four consecutive AAA state tournament appearances (2009-2012), including a pair of runner-up finishes. SC, which missed states last season, received nine votes in the AP preseason poll, missing out on a top-10 ranking by two points.
"We've had good practices and bad practices,'' said the SC coach. "They're all young and I think if they keep working hard and remain coachable they've got a big upside.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.