In order for Capital to capture its most impressive win to date, the Cougars needed a little something extra Tuesday evening. They got it from sophomores Kcion Welch and Elijah Poore.
Welch, thrust into a starting role because of an illness to leading scorer Daimarquis Brooks, flashed all sorts of skills and knocked down a pair of crucial free throws with 21 seconds left to help Capital wrap up a 75-71 victory over visiting Woodrow Wilson.
The Flying Eagles (9-7), who went without top low-post player Ben Gilliam (illness) entered the game ranked No. 8 in the Class AAA state poll, and were just the third team Capital (9-7) has beaten all season with a winning record.
A lot of the credit goes to Welch and Poore, each of whom scored a season-high in points. Welch finished with 12 points, six rebounds and seven steals and Poore tallied 18 points, hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point distance.
Poore nailed a 3 off a nice feed from Kerion Martin with 2:35 left to give Capital the lead for good at 68-65. Later, after Woodrow’s Richard Law knocked down his sixth 3 of the game to bring his side within 72-71 with 25 seconds remaining, Welch helped the Cougars erase their own turnover on the ensuing inbound play by swiping the ball in the backcourt and was fouled. His two free throws made it 74-71 and Brooks rebounded a missed 3 by the Eagles and tacked on a free throw for the final score.
“It was definitely a good win for us,’’ said Capital coach Matt Greene. “We’re still not playing as consistently as we would like. At the Big Atlantic [Classic in Beckley] over the weekend, we didn’t feel we had played our best. I was kind of hoping to get it going better this evening and the guys came out in the second half and did a much better job defensively. That was the biggest difference.’’
Woodrow led 37-30 at halftime as Maddex McMillen came out of the gate red-hot, hitting his first five shots and scoring 12 of his 16 points in the first half. However, turnovers eventually foiled the Flying Eagles, who committed nine in the third quarter alone and finished with 20.
“It’s like we don’t know how to play basketball,’’ said Woodrow Wilson coach Ron Kidd. “Our guard play is too inconsistent.’’
Each team took turns raining in 3-pointers and getting its transition game going, and the score was tied six times in the second half.
Brooks, who missed practice this week and was operating at less than 100 percent, came off the bench and played about half the game for Capital, ending up with 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds as the Cougars led 34-29 off the glass with Gilliam absent for Woodrow.
“I thought our kids battled underneath,’’ Kidd said. “[Gilliam’s] a force inside, but I thought the kids we had in there did a pretty good job with an athletic team.’’
Capital had five double-figure scorers in all, with Martin (14 points, nine rebounds) and Karrington Hill (14 points, four 3s) adding to the mix. Martin also had several key assists, including a flip over top of the defense to a cutting Brooks on the baseline for a 72-68 lead at the 37-second mark as the Cougars were running time off the clock.
Welch, however, was certainly the X factor that helped turned the tide. He started the night averaging less than 3 points per game, but made 4 of 6 shots and all four of his free throws.
“Honestly, the last five, six games, you can see he’s really coming into his own,’’ Greene said. “Everything’s kind of slowing down for him a little bit. He’s playing with more confidence. He’s getting comfortable with what he needs to do.
“He can shoot from the outside a little bit, but the last few games his defensive rebounding was crucial for us. We started calling him Little Rodman, Little Worm because he’s doing a good job. Now his offense has been coming along the last few games.’’
Law sank 6 of 10 from 3-point range, some of them uncanny pull-ups, and led Woodrow with 27 points and added seven rebounds. Ayden Ince had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds).