The last thing the Musselman boys basketball team wanted to do was make the nearly five-hour drive from Inwood to the Charleston Civic Center and turn right back around after one Class AAA state tournament game, like their previous nine trips.
The seventh-seeded Applemen on Wednesday survived to play another day, grinding Parkersburg South’s offense to a halt in the second half to come away with a 57-55 win over the second-seeded Patriots in the Class AAA quarterfinals.
Musselman (20-6) now awaits the winner of Thursday’s 7:15 p.m. quarterfinal between George Washington and Huntington. The winner of that game and the Applemen play at 9 p.m. Friday.
Jake Stephens led Musselman with 26 points and 13 rebounds, but it was his second block of the game that might have been his biggest play. With Musselman up 53-52 with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Cole Plants stole the ball for Parkersburg South and tossed it to Shane Snider, who drove in to attempt the go-ahead layup.
Stephens met him at the hoop to swat it away and into the hands of Robert Glover. Stephens said that form of that block came from watching plenty of West Virginia University shot-blocker extraordinaire Sagaba Konate.
“You learn from all these great shot-blockers that you’ve got to go up with the right hand,” Stephens said. “I guess the right hand was my left hand. I went up and just got a hand on it, and that’s what we needed.”
Musselman trailed the Patriots 35-25 at halftime, but held Parkersburg South to just 20 second-half points. South made just 6 of 23 shots in that 16-minute span and was cold from the free-throw line throughout the game. The Patriots (21-4) went 13 of 22 from the line, with Plants making just 4 of 11 free throws.
“I think our biggest detriment was our offense in the second half,” Parkersburg South coach Mike Fallon said. “You can’t beat anyone if you score 20 points in the second half. We fought to the end, but we never should have put ourselves in that situation.”
Plants led the Patriots with 21 points, while Brayden Mooney scored 16 and Seth Fallon scored 14. Taralle Hayden added 15 points for Musselman, scoring 13 in the second half. Chris Fox scored 12.