For much of the first three quarters, George Washington saw perhaps the worst of Cabell Midland, which had multiple starters in foul trouble, errant 3-point and free throw shooting and turnovers at crucial times.
But down the stretch, the Patriots saw some of the best from the Knights — and still had enough to douse the late uprising.
Mason Pinkett scored 15 points and Evan Hughes turned in a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds Friday night as GW outlasted visiting Midland 63-54 in a matchup of top-10 Class AAA programs.
The No. 9 Patriots (9-5) built leads as large as 20 points late in the third quarter before the No. 4 Knights (13-2) came storming back. Midland cut it back to 60-54 on a Chandler Schmidt steal and basket with 1:46 left, but never managed another point.
“You’ve heard me say this before, but it’s hard to play with the lead,’’ said GW coach Rick Greene. “I really believe that. You start getting tentative .... and you think, ‘Maybe we don’t have to do it quite that way this time because we’re up by such and such.’ And when that lead starts dwindling, to be able to regroup is really a credit to the kids.’’
Maybe the telling point came after Midland, in the midst of a 16-3 run fueled by its trapping defense, shaved the deficit to 51-44 on a K.K. Siebert tip with 5:54 left in the game. GW was able to stem that momentum by converting each of its next four possessions into points.
First came layups by Hughes and Jack Ingold after the Patriots had worked the ball around in their halfcourt offense, then Pinkett knocked down a 3 from the left corner and William Gabbert netted a pair of free throws to make it 60-50 with 2:44 left. Midland was suddenly trading baskets and ultimately ran out of time.
“That’s mental toughness,’’ Greene said, “because they’re coming — and they’re coming full speed — and they’re good, and it’s not like they’re going to be done here. They’re going to play it all the way out. I thought our kids did a good job of putting a stop to that and getting some buckets.’’
Alex Yoakum added 12 points for George Washington, which shot 50 percent from the floor (24 of 48), led in rebounds 33-32 and had just eight turnovers. The Patriots played without starting guard Gus Eddy, who is serving a school suspension.
Cabell Midland was springing leaks all over the place as it fell behind 48-28 late in the third quarter. The Knights ended up 1 of 19 from 3-point range, made just half their 18 free throws and saw their two tallest players, Sean Marcum and Siebert, pick up their third fouls in the second quarter, relegating them to the bench.
The Knights were already without starting wing Palmer Riggio, who missed his second game with an injury, and they haven’t displayed the deepest bench this season, many times just using six or seven players in a game. But with Siebert (13 points, nine rebounds) and Marcum back on the floor in the third quarter, they started to rally.
“GW is really good at trying to make you run an offense,’’ said Midland coach J.J. Martin. “They’re good on defense. They were playing a little zone that we had worked on, and we weren’t doing a real good job of getting somebody in the middle. When we got somebody in the middle, we scored. And when we didn’t, we didn’t. Sean and K.K. got in foul trouble early on, so we had a really small lineup and that hurt us in the first half.
“We gave it everything we had in the second half, and having those two back helped. They picked the intensity up, and we started getting somebody in the middle in the offense. That’s the one thing about these guys in general ... they won’t quit playing. You see what happened when we applied pressure. It worked a little bit and we were able to get out in transition.’’
Chandler Schmidt led Midland with 24 points, seven rebounds and three steals.