CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Scott and Poca had a chance to salvage some pride for the Cardinal Conference Saturday night. The Skyhawks held up their end of the bargain, and the Dots came oh-so-close.Devonti Birch, relegated to coming off the bench, scored 13 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter Saturday night to lead Robert C. Byrd to a 56-50 victory over Poca to cap the 15th Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hoops Classic at the Civic Center.Saturday's card marked the inaugural Big Ten-Cardinal Conference Challenge, with eight games between teams in the Class AA leagues. The Big Ten, located in north central West Virginia, won four of the first six, meaning Scott and Poca would have to sweep the final two showdowns to allow their league to break even.The Skyhawks (3-1) managed their part with a 66-59 win over Fairmont Senior, last year's state tournament runner-up. Anthony Sigmon came off the bench to spark the Skyhawks with a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds).
Poca nearly came through in the finale of the nine-game card, which ended at 10:46 p.m.After trailing by nine points with 1:52 remaining, the Dots shaved it back to 52-50 when they forced a five-second defensive call against the Flying Eagles and Noah Frampton drained a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left.Matt Chandler then forced a steal out of halfcourt pressure defense and got the ball to Frampton at the left of the foul lane on a fast break. Frampton hit a short jumper that would have tied it, but was whistled for an offensive foul.RCB hit 3 of 4 at the foul line in the final 22 seconds to seal it.The high-electricity game between two state-ranked teams featured 10 lead changes and nine ties."I told our kids today at shootaround,'' said RCB coach Bill Bennett, "that we'll learn a lot about ourselves either way, regardless of the outcome. We'll get it on tape, look at it and see if we can get better from it. You go against an Allen Osborne team that's so well-coached and so well-drilled with the defense they play.''Birch played sparingly in the first half for a violation of team rules, but shined down the stretch, almost holding the Dots at bay by himself. He scored 13 of RCB's 16 points in the final quarter.Cameron Carvelli led the Eagles with 15 points and Justin Noble added eight points and 11 rebounds.For the Dots (2-1), freshman Elijah Cuffee scored 16 points and Chandler 11. Cuffee also grabbed 11 rebounds.In the second half, Poca had a lot of empty possessions, turning the ball over seven times and missing half its 12 free throws.Poca's Osborne was not immediately available for comment afterward, owing to the lateness of the game.
In the preceding game, Scott led the entire way, boosting its margin as high as 17 points midway through the third quarter at 44-27.The closest the Polar Bears got was 63-59 when reserve Micheal Holloway knocked down his third 3-pointer with 34 seconds left. However, Brandon Lafauci hit 1 of 2 at the line for the Skyhawks and Eric May netted two more after a Fairmont Senior miss.Scott connected on 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:42 when the Polar Bears had to start fouling."They started extending that pressure,'' said Scott coach Nick Cabell, "and they're a little bit quicker than we are. We had trouble getting the ball across halfcourt. We were throwing it all over the place. We didn't have guys coming to help. And it seemed like they were making everything they threw up in the second half."We've got to get better at that pressure if we want to get where we want to be — at the state tournament, in the state championship. We've got to be able to handle that ball pressure because that's what you're going to see all the way through. We've got to have our guys bring that kind of intensity to practice to simulate that.''Logan Webb also turned in a double-double for Scott (11 points, 10 rebounds).
For Fairmont Senior, Darhius Nunn dropped in 22 points, including six 3s. Holloway came off the bench to score 11, matching teammate Joseph Leon.The Polar Bears had 17 turnovers and Scott 16.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org