Charleston Catholic's Nick George drives to the basket past Buffalo's John Hodges.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Buffalo didn't want Charleston Catholic's Garret McCarty driving to the rim Wednesday night, but McCarty was just as happy to air-mail the ball from 20-plus feet - and swish it.The senior fired three quick 3-pointers to start the game, and the Class A No. 3 Irish made that 9-0 lead stand up, winning 77-65 over a determined Bison team at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Facility.McCarty scored 14 points in the first quarter, 22 by halftime and finished with 31, tying his career high set in Catholic's previous game, against Gilmer County. All told, he went 11 for 17 from the floor, 5 of 9 from 3-point range.Heading to Division II LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., McCarty was happy to dish off to an open teammate, penetrate the Bison defense or a combination of the two. Instead, he was left open for some easy bombs in the opening minutes.McCarty feels he has really improved his shooting, and showed it."They play hard, they play aggressive," he said of Buffalo. "I was surprised when they were backing off of us. We'll definitely have another chance to play them later on this season, so we'll see that happens."Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins shifted his team's defensive strategy on the fly, and the Bison snuck back in the game a few times. Still, he didn't see McCarty's blazing start coming."I had scouted them three or four times," Elkins said. "And our intention was, we weren't going to let him do what he did in the second half. We didn't want him penetrating to the basket. We said, 'OK, we'll give him 3s.' Needless to say he hit the first three. I didn't figure he'd hit three in a row."McCarty couldn't score them all, and he had help from Aaron Persily and Nick George. Persily cleaned up underneath for 12 points, getting two buckets on putbacks. George finished the Irish's 22-11 first quarter with a dunk at the buzzer, but wasn't heard from until the last minute of the third quarter.
George, a 6-foot-4 senior, scored five of his 16 points on two very fortunate bounces to repel Buffalo's best rally. The Bison had sliced Catholic's 50-35 lead to 54-50 when George fired a 3-pointer that appeared to be short. But the ball didn't carom forward - it bounced high off the backboard and fell in the net.He followed that with another fortunate-bounce basket, giving the Irish a 59-50 lead after three quarters. The final eight minutes were all about the Irish, who led by 15 twice."No, I though for sure [I missed]," George said of that 3-pointer. "I started to walk away thinking, 'Oh, gosh.' But it went in. Same thing on the next one."Buffalo was led by Isaiah Robinson's 20 points, achieved on 8-of-13 shooting. Laythan Good added 16, with his entire 5-of-16 shooting coming from behind the 3-point arc. John Hodges added 13 points.Elkins cited a number of mental mistakes and missed opportunities, but he also cited another factor: those snow days. Putnam County allows teams to play on days in which school is canceled, but disruptions still exist.Practices are lost and the game-day mindset is changed. Players are sitting at home playing video games all day, not interacting with students and not trying to dial in until they board the bus.
And remember, Catholic has more tainted-water days than snow-outs."We've got to get into some kind of routine," Elkins said. "And that's going to be key for everybody in the state the rest of the season - who can get everybody back to where they [were] at. I think we're close, but you've got to get into that rhythm."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.