SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston junior A.D. Cunningham admitted that the Black Eagles took Ripley for granted a bit heading into their Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 semifinal on Thursday.For a half it bit them, but in the second half No. 2 SC bit back, in a big way.The Black Eagles used a 9-0 run as part of a 19-6 third quarter to finally get some separation and were able to hold off the upset-minded Vikings 70-55 at the South Charleston Community Center.Ripley, which knocked off Riverside Wednesday to advance to Thursday's game, led by three points after the first quarter and trailed just 33-32 at halftime. But the Black Eagles' pressure defense finally took its toll as Ripley committed 21 turnovers.
Cunningham had team highs in points (16), rebounds (nine) and steals (five) to get SC (22-1) over the hump."We took them lightly, we didn't think they were going to come like this," Cunningham said. "Coach [Vic Herbert] said, 'We're 0-0 right here and they're 1-0 and they're undefeated and we haven't won anything.' So we had to come back out and give them our best shot."It took a collective effort for the Black Eagles as five players reached double figures with Brandon Knapper adding 14, Kentre Grier 13 and Kevin Williams and Jonah Cosby 10 each.Williams got the start for Anthony Billings, who was out with the flu, and Knapper was playing under the weather as well."They beat them by 30 at their place and you tell them and you tell them and you're not going to get through to kids 16, 17 years old that it's not going to be like that — this is tournament time," Herbert said."Overall we changed a lot defensively, did a lot of different things and finally got the energy we needed to put them away. It was an energy thing for us, it wasn't rebounding, defense, or how well we ran offensive sets or anything like that, it was just the energy we could produce to match their energy because I knew they'd play hard."The Vikings (8-16) hit 5 of 9 3-pointers in the first half but shot just 2 of 9 in the second half, including 0 for 4 in the pivotal third quarter.Those missed shots seemed to energize the SC defense, and with the rebounding advantage the Black Eagles had all night, there just wasn't much Ripley could muster in terms of an answer."We played as good as we could in the first half," said Ripley coach Craig Harmon. "In the second half, we started to get a little lackadaisical, our passes were too long and they were coming to the ball."Drew Harpold had 16 points to lead the Vikings, with 13 of those coming before halftime. Luke Layhew and Jamison Hunt each added 11.Thursday marked the 18th consecutive win for SC, which will play George Washington at 7 p.m. Saturday for the sectional title. The Black Eagles survived a 63-62 classic against the Patriots in the teams' only regular-season matchup.
"Elmore is a handful and you've got to understand, they led us the first time we played them down here from the beginning 'til about four or five minutes left in the game," Herbert said. "We respect the heck out of them, because our kids know they led us the whole game, so they could beat us easily unless we come to play."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.