INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- When the curtain closed on competitive basketball at the 72-year-old Fleming Hall, West Virginia State's Bo King had the last word.And his team's last 10 points.And the last steal.And the last stolen victory.
The 6-foot-1 senior from Charleston flat-out stole an 84-81 victory from Virginia-Wise in a game that could keep the Yellow Jackets home for the start of the Mountain East Conference tournament.The visiting Cavaliers had mauled the less-physical Jackets for much of the second half, wiping out a 14-point deficit and taking an 80-74 lead with 56.7 seconds remaining and Anton Hutchins freshly fouled out.Desperate times called for King to play with controlled desperation, and that started with a quick 3-pointer. State called timeout with 50.3 seconds left.As the Cavaliers tried to pound it inside (again), the Jackets' Dominic Phillips stole the ball underneath but was called for rolling onto the end line. That may have drawn the final boos in that acoustically dreadful gym, one in which the 213 fans sounded like 21,300.
Deon Boyce took the inbounds pass for Wise and was fouled, and missed one of his two free throws. King, who finished with 28 points, blew through the Cavs' defense for a quick bucket, making the score 81-79 with 30.3 seconds left.After another State timeout, it happened.King picked Charles George's pocket, furiously drove the ball the 45 feet or so to the rim, drew contact and got the basket. The suddenly raucous gathering quieted just enough for King's free throw, which gave State an 82-81 lead.From there, the Fleming gods weighed in. Javon Moore's jumper missed, but that favored a UVa-Wise team that yanked down 28 offensive rebounds. But not this time - the ball seemed to magically spring over the backboard, giving State possession with 4.2 seconds left.
King hit two free throws to set the final score and Moore missed a rushed 25-footer and that was that."I saw that I could get a jump on the pass, I got there, it fell out a little bit," King said of his fateful steal and three-point play. "I knew I had to get to it before he did, I got the ball. I saw I had him on my left shoulder and I knew what the score was, so I knew we needed the 'and-one.'"So I tried to lean into him a little bit, draw some contact and finish. I was fortunate to do that, as well."
With that, the Jackets overcame a Wise team that outrebounded them 55-28, 28-2 on the offensive glass. State also overcame a performance by Boyce that deserves more than the tired "double-double" tag - 27 points, 24 rebounds.King finished 9 of 15 from the floor and 5 of 10 from 3-point range, with six rebounds, three assists and three steals. As State makes its way to its new Convocation Center, a portrait of that third steal would make a fitting decoration."Bo's crafty like that," Poore said. "He just gets his fingers on the ball and he gets deflections, and he's very instinctive. He's deceivingly strong, so when he's going to the basket I knew he was going to get it up to the rim. So it was huge."The win puts State (12-13) alone in eighth place, a game clear of Wise (10-15, 7-14) and Notre Dame College (9-18, 7-14) in the MEC standings with one game left for all. Finishing eighth would mean State stays home Tuesday for the first round of the MEC tournament; a slip to the ninth seed means the Jackets will board a bus for Wise, Va., or South Euclid, Ohio.Here's how the tiebreakers line up: State swept Wise, thus owning that edge. The Jackets have split with Notre Dame, but the latter owns that tiebreaker by virtue of beating regular-season champion West Liberty. State appears to own the edge in a three-way tie, going 3-1 against Wise and Notre Dame.Notre Dame takes on winless Urbana on Saturday, while Wise visits Concord. State has the toughest draw of the day, welcoming second-place University of Charleston into the new building for a 4 p.m. tip.
Can King make some more history?"I couldn't ask to go out [of Fleming Hall] a better way," King said. "My mom came down here crying, she's so happy. I'm proud to be a part of this program; there are a lot of great guys who came through here. My mom's a teacher here, so I met 'em all, pretty much."I was thinking about those guys before the game, during the game and I am thinking about them right now. I'm just glad we were able to hold it down for 'The Pit' in the last home game here."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.