HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Tavian Dunn-Martin was feeling it Friday night - maybe a little too much, in fact.However, the biggest play turned in by Huntington's sensational sophomore shooter might have been his deft passing and not his uncanny marksmanship.Dunn-Martin drove the lane and slipped a pass to Arick Nicks for a layup with 38 seconds left, giving the host Highlanders a thrilling 69-68 victory over Capital in a matchup of unbeaten and top-ranked Class AAA teams.The inside-outside combination of the 6-foot-4 Nicks (33 points, 13 rebounds) and the shifty, 5-7 Dunn-Martin (25 points, three steals, 7 of 13 on 3-pointers) eventually brought the No. 2 Highlanders back from first-half deficits as large as 12 points.Capital (5-1), the No. 3 team in AAA, led virtually the entire way, but lost the advantage twice in the final 1:11 as first Dunn-Martin, then Nicks hit crucial baskets."I was feeling the shots,'' said Dunn-Martin, "and I was making them, so I just kept shooting.''He swished three straight 3s in the final quarter, the last one from the right corner off an inbound play with a defender in his face, giving the Highlanders a 67-66 edge at the 1:11 mark - their first lead of the night. That one, like most of Dunn-Martin's treys, was a fadeaway shot, and he continually fell to the floor after releasing the ball.The lead then changed hands one more time, rapid-fire style.
Carrington Morris sank a scooping layup for the Cougars with 48 seconds remaining, and Dunn-Martin quickly put the ball on the floor, weaved through the Capital defense and found Nicks cutting along the baseline for the winning basket."We've got a connection,'' Dunn-Martin said. "We just look for each other. I look for him, he looks for me. We get each other the ball. He just happened to be there, so I passed it to him.''Capital had three more chances after that.Huntington's Chancelor Wooding deflected a Cougars pass, giving his team the ball to start a fast break. Dunn-Martin, owing to his unconscious shooting, got the ball deep in the left corner and instead of working the clock, hoisted an unnecessary 3 that bounced off the rim.
"That was a mental mistake,'' Dunn-Martin said. "It won't happen again, though. You've just got to play through it.''Morris got the rebound and then attempted a double-clutch jumper inside the foul line that missed and Nicks rebounded, but was tied up and the possession arrow favored Capital with 4.5 seconds left.The final opportunity went awry, though, when Jordan Kinney's inbound pass was swiped by J.R. Howard and the Highlanders ran out the time.
"We had two kids coming to the basketball and two kids popping out,'' Capital coach Carl Clark said of the final play. "We had a man open. We just threw the ball away. We could have gotten a shot if the ball had gotten to the open man.''Capital, which vaulted into a 23-11 lead in the first quarter, got balanced scoring as Kinney and Brad Grose each tallied 14 points, and Morris and Bryce Goldsmith had 12 apiece. Tyrell Davis added nine points and six assists.However, the Cougars' two low-post threats, Grose and Goldsmith, saw their time limited because of foul problems, with Grose fouling out at the 3:53 mark of the final period. That served to hamstring Capital, especially in defending Nicks."Sure,'' Clark said, "because when you lose those guys, we're playing with guards. We've got a bunch of guards. We don't have any backups for our big kids. So we end up playing with our guards and their big man, he was just unstoppable. He was shooting the ball, getting his own rebound, shooting the ball, taking the ball to the basket.''Morris grabbed 11 rebounds for Capital, which led off the boards at halftime but wound up with a 35-32 deficit as the Highlanders started to assert themselves."I think it kind of took us a little time to get adjusted to their speed,'' said Huntington coach Ron Hess, "how quick they are - very athletic, very quick. And again, we haven't played for a week. It seems like we play, then we wait for a week and that makes it hard to get into a rhythm, so many days off like that.
"The biggest adjustment we made is we kind of sloughed off them a little bit because they're so quick, so we didn't put so much pressure on them out there at the front. We kind of backed off and made them work harder for their shots. When we did that, we were in position to rebound better.''Capital finished with 13 turnovers, six fewer than Huntington.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.