SC goes to bigs to wrap up girls state berth
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston has relied all season on its guard play, but Wednesday night the Black Eagles were led by the frontcourt.
Five-foot-11 junior Aryaunna Mosley and 6-1 freshman Rhea Smith combined for 20 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in leading host SC back to the state tournament with a dominating 68-47 victory over Woodrow Wilson in the Class AAA Region 3 co-final in front of about 300.
SC (20-3), which finished tied for sixth in the final Associated Press poll, won't know its seed or matchup for the state tournament (set for March 12-15 at the Charleston Civic Center) until later this week. Several Class AAA regional co-finals were postponed Tuesday because school was canceled and the last one won't be played until Friday.
Mosley turned in 11 points, 13 boards and one block while Smith contributed nine points, five caroms, three blocks and four steals. Mosley has now scored in double figures five of the last seven games.
The duo helped the Black Eagles outrebound the Flying Eagles 37-24 and control the game with putbacks or by giving SC multiple offensive shots and limiting Woodrow's second-chance opportunities.
"They played very strong,'' SC freshman point guard Aaliyah Dunham said of Mosley and Smith. "They got a lot of rebounds. That's very important because second shots kill us a lot.''
"Tonight was probably one of our better games for Rhea and Aryaunna to work together like that,'' added SC coach Gary Greene. "We hadn't been able to get both of them on the same page. Aryaunna's been coming on so strong the last six or seven games. Rhea's getting a lot better. They worked well inside.''
SC was comfortably ahead by 15 points (31-16) with 4:58 left in the second quarter, but Woodrow closed within 38-24 at halftime. Freshman Ashlee Lane's free throw with 4:17 remaining in the third quarter tightened things as the Flying Eagles pulled to single digits (44-35).
Dunham nailed a 3-pointer with 48.9 seconds to go in the third to give the Black Eagles a 48-38 cushion. SC opened the fourth by scoring the first three points to expand its advantage to 13 points (51-38) on Dunham's foul shot and freshman guard ShyAnne Dunham's driving baseline jump shot with 5:30 left in the game. Woodrow didn't have another run left in it as SC pulled away.
Woodrow freshman guard Aaliyah Williams, who was averaging 19.4 points for fourth best in the Mountain State Athletic Conference, sat out the opening quarter for violating team rules and didn't enter until the six-minute mark of the second period. The Flying Eagles fell behind 20-8 in the first eight minutes.
Aaliyah Dunham finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists for SC while sophomore shooting guard Taliah Cashwell added 15 points. ShyAnne Dunham pitched in eight points and five boards for the Black Eagles and junior guard Lina Villanueva had seven points off the bench.
SC returns to the state tournament a year after losing in the sectional semifinals last year. Greene, who stepped down prior to the 2012-13 season to tend to his wife's health, guided the Black Eagles to back-to-back state runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011 and a quarterfinals appearance in 2012.
"These kids have heart,'' said Greene, who starts three freshmen and a sophomore. "They got us an opportunity to play [in the regional co-final] and we took advantage of it. That's all I casn ask. They have tried to do what we've asked them to do. It's taken a while to run our system and play team defense. They're smooth now. When they run the floor they're pretty good.''
Williams scored a team-high 18 points for Woodrow, which had two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting five Wednesday.
"Missed layups, missed foul shots, rebounds we should have grabbed ... I thought our inexperience showed in that stretch where those South Charleston kids took it to us,'' said Woodrow coach James Lewis in reference to when the Flying Eagles sliced their deficit to nine points midway in the third. "We kind of blew an opportunity.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.