South Charleston's Anthony Billings (right) defends against a shot by George Washington's Jon Elmore.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This time, there was no disputed call at the end. Just a prime-time effort by a player who until recently was getting small-time minutes.Junior reserve Jonah Cosby hit a big 3-pointer and snagged a crucial rebound in the final stages Saturday night as South Charleston wrapped up a 63-56 victory over George Washington in a hotly contested Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 title game.A sellout crowd of 2,000 packed into the South Charleston Community Center and watched the No. 2-ranked Black Eagles (23-1) win their 19th straight and earn home-court advantage for Tuesday's Region 3 co-final against No. 6 Greenbrier East. No. 7 GW (18-6) must hit the road for its regional game with No. 3 Woodrow Wilson the same night.GW's Jon Elmore, the state's leading scorer, led all players with 28 points but hit only 6 of 25 shots, missing his final nine.
The last time the teams met, the Black Eagles pulled out a 63-62 win when SC's Brandon Knapper hit two free throws with less than a second left after his 3-point shot was blocked but a foul was whistled - a call GW argued vehemently.Saturday's game was just as tight much of the way until SC closed with a 13-5 burst to wipe out GW's 51-50 lead.Cosby donated three key moments in that end-game run - hitting a long 3 for a 56-52 lead with 3:22 left, then later grabbing an important rebound off an Elmore miss with 20 seconds to go and, after being fouled on the play, making two free throws for a 62-56 advantage.He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds - heady stuff for a player who had scored only 26 total varsity points during the regular season."It's definitely exciting,'' Cosby said. "It's a different experience than JV. I've been working hard all season waiting on my turn and the time came, and I did what I've been practicing to do."Coach has seen me work hard in practice and decided to give me a chance. Our practices are like games how hard we work in practice, and I've been in situations before in AAU basketball, so I was pretty much prepared for it.''After trailing by as many as 11 in the first half, GW rallied to take a 47-46 lead after three quarters. However, the Patriots couldn't keep it going, sinking just 2 of 13 shots in the fourth period.GW was down 57-56 with just over a minute left when SC attacked the offensive glass, getting four shots in one sequence that ended with Anthony Billings making one free throw. Dominik King had a good look at a pull-up jumper at the other end for the Patriots, but it didn't drop and Billings rebounded.Knapper swished two free throws at the 29-second mark to make it 60-56 before Elmore missed a driving shot against the defense of Cosby and Billings. That's the play where Cosby rebounded and hit two foul shots to virtually ice it with 20 seconds left."Somebody on the way off the court asked me where [Cosby] has been,'' said SC coach Vic Herbert. "He's a great kid from a great family and Jonah would be the first to tell you this - he just wasn't playing hard-nosed and tough enough for my style. We play a grind-it-out, get-up-in-your-face defensive type of game."Up until later in the season, he wasn't really doing that for us. We explained that to him and he listened, and now he's one of the most aggressive kids we've got.''
GW coach Rick Greene felt that offensive rebounding, especially late, was the difference. SC outrebounded the Patriots 26-17 in the second half to end up with a 43-31 edge."We were up and they came down and missed two, three straight shots,'' Greene said, "and got the offensive rebound. It's what I've told the kids all along and I've failed somewhere to get that message to them. It's been our weakness all year, and I haven't been able to reach them about it.''Billings yanked down 15 rebounds for SC, which also got double-figure scoring from Knapper (16 points) and A.D. Cunningham (15 points).Herbert likewise thought his team's effort in rebounding and defense swayed the outcome, especially since the Eagles sank just 6 of 27 second-half shots."That says something about our defense and rebounding,'' Herbert said. "It's the same-old what SC does."I look out there and see A.D. and Billings snatch a couple rebounds and their hands are like even or above the rim, snatching it with two hands."
Anthony Dean added 10 points and 12 rebounds for GW. Cai Carena had seven boards.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org