South Charleston's Brandon Knapper drives to the basket on Riverside's Tyus Wood.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- It's been tough to maintain that razor's edge when the season has had so many fits and starts because of first snow then a polar vortex of artic cold and now a Kanawha Valley-wide water outage.South Charleston finally found its rhythm in the second half Monday afternoon in cruising past Riverside 69-47. A crowd of about 600 attended the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup at St. Albans High School, which hosted the two teams since that is one of the only areas in the Valley with potable water after a chemical leak Thursday.It wasn't pretty at times Monday for the Black Eagles (5-1), who were No. 7 in the Associated Press AAA poll released Monday. SC was sloppy early on, which showed up in its 39.1 percent shooting and 14 missed free-throw attempts.Then after halftime, SC turned up the full-court pressure, converting steals into easy layups in turning its 12-point lead at the break (30-18) into a rout. The Black Eagles forced 22 turnovers, while committing just 10 of their own, and came up with 19 steals."We played with a lot of intensity in the second half,'' said SC sophomore guard Brandon Knapper, who is one of two sophomores starting at guard. "We weren't like ourselves defensive-wise, but it was still good."It's really tough not practicing a lot and not going through the plays. Some players don't even know the plays that much. We just come out here and played our heart out.''Junior A.D. Cunningham turned in 15 points, seven rebounds and five steals for the Black Eagles while 6-foot-6 senior Anthony Billings pitched in 14 points, 14 boards and three blocks. SC senior Jordan Lewis added 14 points, five rebounds and three steals and Knapper totaled 14 points on 6-of-10 accuracy from the field."I was tickled with the way we played in the second half,'' said SC coach Vic Herbert, whose squad bounced back after a tough overtime loss at Capital last week. "This team is going to be a work in progress. I thought we'd have a loss before we played Capital, and I think we're going to have two or three early because of the inexperience factor.
"We've got two seniors that hadn't got much playing time because this is the first year they've been eligible, then you've got two sophomore guards. I don't think you'll be able to measure this team at the end of the year by their win-loss record. I think by the end they've got a chance to be pretty good.''Riverside hung tough in the opening half after SC senior Kevin Williams' 3-pointer put the Black Eagles in front 25-8 with 4:06 left in the second quarter. The Warriors outscored SC 10-5 behind a 6-of-8 effort at the foul line over the rest of the period to trail just 30-18.SC, though, ratcheted up the intensity in the third quarter, using a 9-2 run to take a comfortable 39-20 edge with 5:40 to go with buckets off layins and putbacks. The Black Eagles maintained their advantage heading into the final stanza in coasting to the win."We've got a lot of chemistry,'' Knapper said. "Our defense can pick up and come after you pretty hard.''Tyus Wood paced Riverside (3-1) with 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting. The 6-2 senior was averaging 29.3 points through Jan. 7.Warriors sophomore Quan Brock chipped in 12 points, all on foul shots, and 6-6 sophomore Josh Carpenter donated nine points, five rebounds and four blocks."I'm very disappointed in the way we played,'' said Riverside first-year coach Ryan Carter, whose team made only 29.8 percent of its shots. "We focus on defense and rebounding and we got whipped on both aspects.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.