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SC vs GW

George Washington's Zane McCarty (3) drives and scores against South Charleston.

On its way to a Class AAAA state championship a year ago, George Washington grew accustomed to making big plays at the right time in winning tight games.

Led by six seniors and four juniors, the seasoned Patriots leaned on those habits when they needed them on Wednesday.

A 3-pointer by Zane McCarty followed by a steal and a bucket from Brenden Hoffman turned out to be the 1-2 punch the No. 3 Patriots needed as it turned a tie game with under 1:20 to go into a five-point cushion. From there, GW’s defense did the rest as it turned away host South Charleston in a 47-43 decision at the South Charleston Community Center.

It marked the 12th straight win in the series for the Patriots (5-0) dating back to Jan. 23, 2016, and like several of them, it was nip-and-tuck throughout. And yet again, when push came to shove, GW’s experience saw it through.

“It has to help,” GW coach Rick Greene said. “You’re early on and you’re kind of getting your legs for the new season, but we’ve been fortunate -- the kids we’ve had here before and forever -- but recently we’ve been in some big games and we had that to draw on.”

A defensive battle from the start, the game featured eight lead changes and eight ties, including at the end of the second (22-22) and third (31-31) quarters. Neither team led by more than five points along the way.

SC’s Bryson Smith hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to put the Black Eagles (3-2) up 34-32 and the see-saw battle continued. Hoffman hit a pair of free throws and then a 3-pointer to put GW back out in front and the Patriots led by three at 41-38 as the clock slipped under two minutes.

The Black Eagles’ Mondrell Dean, who missed his first four 3-point attempts, finally buried one to tie things up with 1:43 to go, but McCarty immediately answered on the other end and Hoffman came up with the pivotal steal in the SC frontcourt and raced unhindered to the rim to give GW a sudden five-point lead at 46-41. The Patriots cashed in 9 out of 14 times at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, and though the percentage wasn’t overwhelming, the volume was, and they were enough to help salt the game away.

“This was a big test,” Greene said. “This was, ‘What can we do?’ I didn’t know if this team could grind a win out. We’re really skilled and we can shoot it but I felt like, I told them before I came out, we did grind it out -- it was a lower-case ‘g’, it wasn’t a capital ‘G’ yet. But that told me a lot about our team tonight. I was very, very encouraged from that standpoint.”

For the No. 6 Black Eagles, it was another near miss in the cross-town rivalry with Wednesday’s result being the sixth time in those 12 losses decided by four points or less.

There were a couple of areas that were glaring in the postgame stats. Though the rebounding numbers -- a 33-29 advantage for GW -- didn’t look overwhelming, 14 of the Patriots’ boards came on the offensive end. And on a night in which offense was difficult to come by on both sides, GW did a better job of finding higher-percentage attempts.

The Patriots were 5 for 14 from 3-point range and 14 for 21 at the free-throw line while SC attempted 27 3s, making just six, and was just 7 for 8 from the charity stripe.

“They’re big -- I think we’re fairly big and long with some guys we have but they’re a big team and they’re strong and mature,” SC coach Josh Daniel said. “A point of emphasis for us coming into the game is we had to not allow offensive rebounds and we did not do a good job with that and they hurt us.

“I think it’s a little bit of us not really going and hitting guys and letting them bring the physicality to us, which is who we can’t be. But I will say I thought our effort was tremendous. I thought we competed really, really hard for the whole game. All it takes is one shot to go in, one turnover, one offensive rebound and we win the game.”

McCarty led all scorers with 19 points with Ben Nicol adding 12 to GW’s cause and Hoffman finishing with 10. Smith and Wayne Harris each had 11 to pace SC with Cayden Faucett adding 10.

Ryan Pritt covers WVU and prep sports. He can be reached at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pritt@hdmediallc.com. Follow him on Twitter @RPritt.