Huntington downs Capital 50-42 for boys Class AAA state basketball championship

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail
Huntington’s Dewey Brown (left) and Mikal Dawson try to block a shot by Capital’s Leondre’ Rogers.

It took until the state championship, but someone finally beat Capital at its own game.

Junior forward Mikal Dawson, one of the state’s top players, flashed some of his big-time moves with 25 points and 10 rebounds and the Highlanders forced 21 turnovers in capturing a 50-42 victory in the Class AAA title game at the Charleston Civic Center.

It’s the third crown in four years for Huntington (22-5), which entered the state tournament as the No. 3 seed. Capital (23-5), the No. 1 seed, was seeking its first title since back-to-back championships in 2000-01.

The Highlanders, who led the entire second half, also avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Cougars, one by 24 points.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team than I am tonight,’’ said Huntington coach Ron Hess. “We lost four starters off last year’s team and a lot of people didn’t expect us to get back here, much less to win it.’’

The way Huntington won it was to pack in its 2-3 zone defense — a tactic it didn’t use much this season — and dare the Cougars to shoot from the outside and also protect the ball against Capital’s relentless full-court pressure, which has bamboozled many an opposing offense.

Capital never got in a rhythm offensively, shooting 27 percent overall, making just 3 of 17 from 3-point range and turning the ball over a season-high 21 times. The Cougars’ previous season-low was 52 points.

“It’s like we were running in mud all night,’’ said Capital coach Matt Greene. “We weren’t really fluent. Our game plan is we like to create offense from our defense.

“It may have been a little bit of nerves, but just the style of play with them really slowing it down. They were a little more deliberate than they have been in the past on offense. Then when they sit back in that zone, it makes us slower. We never got it going, and our momentum got killed all the time. We never had those 6-0 runs, and that’s one of our strengths. Huntington did a good job of slowing it down.’’

Not only did Capital commit 21 turnovers itself, but it forced only eight from the Highlanders. Huntington led 18-4 in points off turnovers and 10-4 in fast-break points, areas that Capital usually dominates.

In the third quarter, when Huntington started to put some distance between itself and the Cougars, Capital had eight turnovers — including five in one two-minute stretch late in the period as it failed to get the ball inside without it being deflected. The Highlanders led 33-26 entering the final quarter and the closest Capital got was five points.

“Way too many turnovers and way too many empty possessions,’’ Greene said. “We forced too many things and got a little impatient. Again, that was their defense. We didn’t hit anything outside to open anything up, and couldn’t get anything going in the paint.’’

Without scoring a point or taking a single shot, Huntington point guard Jadon Hayes had a huge impact on the game. Playing all 32 minutes, he finished with nine rebounds, eight of his team’s 16 steals and six assists.

“Everyone has a role on this team,’’ Hayes said — scorer, facilitator, defender. And I just try to do my role.’’

Hess praised the job Hayes and others did with their ball-handling against Capital’s full-court defense.

“Eight turnovers against a team like this that puts so much pressure on you is unbelievable,’’ Hess said. “They all did a great job breaking their press tonight. If we have a bunch of turnovers, they’re going to beat us.’’

Aside from Leondre’ Rogers’ 18 points and 11 rebounds, pickings were slim for the Cougars, who led just 19-18 at halftime and had 10 turnovers at the break.

“I thought our 2-3 really gave them a lot of trouble tonight,’’ Hess said. “We wanted to make sure everybody was staying inside the 3-point line. If they were going to beat us tonight, they’d have to do it from the outside.

“This is the type of game we had to have tonight to beat them — make it a little bit ugly, and usually we’re not a team like that with the talent we have. If it gets up in the 60s, maybe we don’t beat them.’’

Anthony Pittman, who scored 39 points in Capital’s first two state tournament games, was held to six points on 3 of 14 shooting.

John Dawson, the senior brother of Mikal Dawson, added 15 points for Huntington. Mikal Dawson scored 17 of his 25 in the second half.

The closest Capital got in the final 10 minutes was 40-35 on two free throws by Rogers, who went 10 of 10 at the line. The Cougars came up with a steal moments later, but a Rogers’ 3 was off the mark and John Dawson netted two foul shots for the Highlanders to make it 42-35.

An Anthony Dean rebound basket brought Capital within 42-37 with 3:13 left, but the Highlanders began to pull the ball out and run clock on offense and hit 4 of 6 free throws inside the two-minute mark to put it away.

Greene praised his players’ performance during a season that saw the program make great strides.

“I’m proud of them. What a great group they were,’’ Greene said, “and what great things they’ve done the last two years since I’ve been here as head coach. Twenty-plus wins, a conference championship, but more importantly how they carried themselves. They were first-class people — they’re as good athletically as they are people.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

Huntington 50, Capital 42

Huntington (22-5)

M FG FT R A P

Hayes 32 0-0 0-0 9 6 0

Subik 30 1-8 2-2 0 2 4

M Dawson 32 11-24 2-3 10 1 25

J Dawson 32 4-14 7-11 5 1 15

Brown 23 2-4 0-0 1 0 4

Stevens 2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Wright 9 1-2 0-0 0 0 2

Totals 160 19-52 11-16 27 10 50

Capital (23-5)

M FG FT R A P

Martin 23 0-2 0-0 2 2 0

Rogers 31 3-12 10-10 11 3 18

Pittman 30 3-14 0-2 9 1 6

Figures 18 1-3 0-0 4 0 2

Etheridge 13 1-1 0-0 2 0 2

Wilder 14 1-2 0-0 3 0 2

Thompson 6 0-3 0-0 0 0 0

Pinkett 6 1-4 0-0 3 0 3

Dean 19 2-3 5-8 7 0 9

Totals 160 12-44 15-20 45 6 42

Huntington 6 12 15 17 —50

Capital 6 13 7 16 —42

3-point goals: Huntington 1-13 (Subik 0-3, M. Dawson 1-5, J. Dawson 0-5); Capital 3-17 (Rogers 2-6, Pittman 0-4, Thompson 0-3, Pinkett 1-4).

All-tournament team

Capital: Leondre’ Rogers, Anthony Pittman

Huntington: Mikal Dawson, John Dawson, Grant Subik

Morgantown: Torin Hanson, Nicky Solomon

University: Kaden Metheny

Team awards

Sportsmanship: George Washington

Spirit Award: University

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