SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was evident from the beginning of Thursday's game that South Charleston's players couldn't wait to hit the court after missing practice the past two days because of snow and cold weather.The Black Eagles scored the first 12 points and needed every bit of that cushion in fighting off Hurricane for a 74-62 victory. A crowd of about 600 attended the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference West Division opener for both schools at the SC Community Center.Sophomore guard Brandon Knapper scored a game-high 25 points and added four rebounds, three assists and six steals for SC (9-1), which rose to sixth in this week's state poll.Junior guard A.D. Cunningham added 12 points, eight boards and three steals for the Black Eagles, and senior low post Kevin Williams donated 11 points and senior center Anthony Billings turned in 10 points, 13 caroms and four blocks."We were ready for this game,'' said Knapper. "We came out with a lot of intensity and players helped each other out. Coach [Vic Herbert] said this is a very important game, it's the first game in our division, and we just wanted to come out and punish them.''The Black Eagles, who under Kanawha County's rules couldn't practice or play games Tuesday or Wednesday because classes were called off, came out in the opening quarter as if shot out of a cannon.SC knocked down 10 of 16 shots, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range, to race out to a 25-8 advantage. Four different players netted points during the 12-0 surge in the first 4:13.Hurricane sliced its deficit to 10 points at 39-29 with 2:02 left in the second period, but the Black Eagles responded by scoring the final seven points of the quarter to take a seemingly commanding 17-point lead (46-29).The Redskins wouldn't go away and closed within six points (53-47) with 11 seconds to go in the third quarter on back-to-back layups from senior forward Henry Sorsaia. SC sophomore shooting guard Kentre Grier, though, swished a 3 as he was falling out of bounds toward the Black Eagles' bench for a 56-47 edge heading into the final period.
"We've been trying to get confidence back into his shot,'' said Knapper of Grier. "He hadn't been shooting that well, but we've been staying after practice shooting jump shots. He's got that confidence back.''Grier's shot lit a fire under SC, which tallied the first six points of the fourth to forge ahead 62-47 with 5:57 remaining in coasting to the win."I just don't think we played good quarters two through four,'' said SC's Herbert. "Something needs to be looked at to make the playing field level as far as practicing because we couldn't practice Tuesday and Wednesday."No excuses, Hurricane's really good. They're going to win 17 or 18 ballgames. Some counties can practice and we're sitting at home watching TV because we can't. They're probably going to be sharper than us. I think if we would have been able to practice Tuesday and Wednesday we would have played more crisp and sharp.''Sorsaia notched 17 points with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks for Hurricane (8-3) while junior forward J.T. Rogoszewski added 16 points and eight boards. Redskins senior post Ace Estep pitched in 11 points and five caroms and junior guard Trey Dawson had 10 points, four assists and four steals."We just came out too tentative,'' said Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland, who guided the Redskins to the state tournament last season. "We just didn't handle the pressure.
"Once we scored, everything was OK. We don't ever quit. If [Grier] doesn't make that 3 at the end of the third quarter, it's a six-point game and it's getting ready to be a dogfight. [SC is] very physical and it's hard to go against that sometimes. We're getting there.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.