Around midseason, Parkersburg South coach Mike Fallon was wondering if he and his team were ever going to figure it out.
During a stretch where the Patriots lost nine out of 13 games, they fell to three top-10 Class AAA teams — University, Morgantown and Parkersburg — by a combined 18 points.
There were other, more-lopsided losses in there, too, but Fallon saw how close his players were getting and hoped they could, at some point, turn the corner.
It took 21 games, but South finally got there. In their next-to-last regular season game on Feb. 21, the Patriots bombed in 15 3-pointers and rallied to win 77-76 at then-No. 3 George Washington.
That served to energize South, which now enters this week’s state tournament rematch against Capital with a bit of momentum, having won five of its last six games.
The Patriots (14-11), holding the No. 8 seed, tackle the No. 1 Cougars (21-4) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Charleston Civic Center in the Class AAA quarterfinals. The same two met in the opening round last year, with then-No. 6 seed South outlasting No. 3 Capital 87-86 in a memorable double-overtime contest.
“I still point back to that GW game when we pulled that off,’’ Fallon said, “and I still think that was the turning point in our season, I really do.
“We always felt that if we could just beat somebody people didn’t think we were supposed to beat. It took a little longer than we anticipated, but I’m glad it did [happen]. That’s when things kind of changed, and it seemed like we finally started to figure things out.’’
The No. 8 seed has never beaten a No. 1 in any of the state’s three classes since a coaches seeding format was adopted in 2005 (see chart), but the Patriots figure to have a puncher’s chance against Capital, largely because of their knack for knocking down long balls. They’ve hit 218 as a team, nearly nine per game.
Capital coach Matt Greene knows his defenders have to be aware that any of the seven or eight players in South’s rotation can stroke a 3-pointer at any time.
“We’re familiar with their style of play,’’ Greene said. “It’ll be real similar to what we saw last year. They like to get up and down the floor and shoot 3s. They do a good job with their motion offense, and they get the shot they want to get. And obviously, they’ve been playing well lately.’’
Bobby Foggin leads South in scoring at 15.0 points per game and in 3-pointers with 67. Following him are Cole Plants (14.7 ppg, 29 3s), Shane Snider (13.4 ppg, 19 3s), Seth Fallon (32 3s) and Todd Burner (30 3s).
“One of the good things about us,’’ Mike Fallon said, “is that all our kids can handle the ball and shoot the ball. They can put them up against pressure or anything. They’ve got free reign, and they know when they’re open. They say, ‘Let it fly.’
“They’ve got freedom to shoot, and maybe there’s a little too much freedom sometimes. At the beginning of the year, it was a quick pass and a 3. But they’ve grown up so much offensively, and this group now does a good job with when to shoot the 3 and not to shoot the 3.’’
Each team has three players who appeared in last year’s state tournament game. For South, it’s Foggin, Fallon and Snider. For Capital, it’s senior point guard Leondre’ Rogers (15.4 ppg, 5.9 assists), junior wing Anthony Pittman (13.6 ppg, 6.8 rebounds) and sophomore guard Kerry Martin Jr.
Fallon is also wary of senior guard Tevin Pinkett, who comes off the bench and leads the Cougars with 46 3-pointers.
“Those two definitely can score,’’ Fallon said of Rogers and Pittman, “and when [Pinkett] shoots the ball, it really opens the other kids up. Then they hit the boards really hard, and that’s what they love, getting a lot of second shots. You have to make sure you limit them as much as possible. They’re really balanced in that sense, that they all attack the boards.’’
Greene said there’s been little to no talk among Capital’s players about getting the chance to avenge last year’s disappointing loss to South at the state tournament.
“Not necessarily,’’ he said. “They’re excited to get there and they don’t care who they’re going to play. Obviously, it comes up because of how it happened [last year].
“They have some sense of familiarity with them, having seen them last year, so that helps a little bit. But no, nothing like that [talk of revenge].’’