WILLIAMSON, W.Va. - South Charleston was up to the challenge - and then some - for its Hatfield-McCoy test against Knott County Central.Brandon Knapper scored 22 points and knocked down 5 of 6 free throws in the final 1:07 Saturday night as the Black Eagles outlasted Knott County Central (Ky.) 75-71 in the penultimate game of the Hatfield-McCoy Shootout at the venerable Williamson Field House.The Black Eagles (8-1) never trailed over the final 16 minutes against a Patriots team that has played tough with some of the top competition in the state of Kentucky.Camron Justice, Knott's 6-foot-2 junior guard who has committed to Tennessee, led his team with 38 points, hitting 12 of 19 shots and 11 of 12 free throws.But SC countered with its lend-a-hand approach, which included large contributions from Knapper, A.D. Cunningham (19 points) and Anthony Billings (16 points, nine rebounds). The Black Eagles' bench also outscored Knott 13-2."Everybody did a little bit there at the end,'' said SC coach Vic Herbert. "We're a team of blue-collar kids. We're a blue-collar community and we're going to play tough and hard-nosed on the defensive end. Everybody knows that. That's what we do."It just so happens that tonight we put the offensive part into that puzzle. If we play that way with the way we guard, we're going to be hard to beat.''
The Black Eagles knocked down 8 of 15 tries from 3-point range, including a 3 of 3 effort by Cunningham, who has seldom shown a knack for perimeter shooting."The coaches always say you've got to take that shot,'' Cunningham said, "because they know you're going to drive. You've got to open up your game. I stay after practice every day and shoot 50 shots in five minutes. It helps me a lot.''Knott County (13-4) trailed by 10 points with about 2:30 to play, but made it interesting with one wild final flurry, forcing four turnovers from SC in the last three minutes after the Black Eagles had committed just five before that.
A rebound basket by Knott's Evan Hall (16 points, nine rebounds) lowered the lead to 74-69 with 18 seconds left and Simon Christon swiped the inbound pass and fed Justice for layup to shave the deficit to three. Cunningham was fouled with two seconds left and made the second shot to ice the win."We stuck together as a team,'' Cunningham said. "Nobody tried to go out and do too much by themselves. We all trusted each other and gave a team effort.''The taller Patriots led 36-26 off the boards, but committed 12 turnovers and shot less than 50 percent (26 of 57) to SC's 28 of 54.Billings made his final eight shots from the floor in going 8 of 9. Knapper (7 of 13) and Cunningham (6 of 12) were also 50 percent or better."They shot the 3 well,'' Knott County coach B.B. King said of the Black Eagles. "It kind of hurt us. I felt like we missed too many free throws [16 of 25, 5 of 13 aside from Justice]. You've got to make them.''
Chance Cornett grabbed 13 rebounds for the Patriots."They've got a good ballclub,'' King said of the Black Eagles. "They could play in the state of Kentucky, especially if they shoot it that well.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.