Charleston Catholic took a somewhat different path to victory on Monday, and as a reward now hits the long road.
Will Jenkins matched his career-high with 19 points to lead a balanced scoring effort for the Irish, who rolled to a 73-53 victory over Fayetteville in a Class A Region 3, Section 1 game at Catholic’s Athletic Complex.
The win sends Catholic (13-9), the No. 2 seed, into Tuesday’s sectional semifinal at state-ranked Pocahontas County (20-2), the No. 3 seed that felled Richwood 83-41 on Monday.
Irish coach Matt Morrison knows it’s not a perfect situation — a three-hour trip to play on back-to-back nights — but realizes the postseason sometimes calls for out-of-the-ordinary circumstances.
“It’s not set up for us to be successful,’’ Morrison said, “but we’re going to try and find a way to go up there and see what we can do. I was not excited about the way it was set up, even though I’m all about playing at the higher seed. At the same time, it’s going to be tough, but no excuses for us.’’
To get in position for the long trip, Catholic had to overcome a gritty effort from Fayetteville (6-13), which dressed just nine players and threw a box-and-one defense at Robby Williams, the leading scorer for the Irish at 22.3 points per game.
Williams finished with only 11 points and needed a late 3-pointer to extend his double-figure scoring streak to 25 straight games and his streak of making at least one 3 to 21 games in a row.
“We played them straight man the first two times,’’ said Pirates coach Brent Conley, “and we stayed pretty close with them those two games but turnovers killed us. So we came into this game focusing on stopping [Williams], limiting his options to score. We worked on it all week in practice. We accomplished our goal, but turnovers killed us again.’’
Fayetteville had 18 turnovers, 12 of them steals by the Irish, with nine of those thefts leading directly to baskets at the other end. Catholic vaulted into an 8-0 lead just 1:17 into the game, with three baskets coming after steals. The Pirates were never closer than 11 points in the second half.
“The thing that hurt us,’’ Conley said, “was that we hadn’t played since the previous Saturday, and that’s tough to do. All our games were called off. We tried to keep up the intensity in practice, but with only nine guys we can’t go five-on-five. We did what we could four-on-four and tried to keep the energy up. It’s not like we weren’t ready to play. First half we played well, but didn’t shoot well.’’
Morrison, meanwhile, was pleased to see that Williams, his point guard, didn’t try to force shots, and the Irish offense kept humming. Dom Martin scored 14 points and Zion Suddeth 12 with four steals. Martin wore No. 34 as a tribute to injured senior Calvin Sutphin, who couldn’t play. At one point, after knocking down a 3 in front of his team’s bench, Martin pointed to Sutphin and smiled.
“We tried to be a little more patient and get more guys involved,’’ Morrison said. “We had seven guys score and four in double figures — that’s a recipe for our success. It did surprise us they went to a box-and-one, but obviously we have seen that a few times this year, and we had some things to run.’’
Marshall Pile donated a team-high 11 rebounds and eight points for the Irish. For Fayetteville, Luke Vass had 14 points and Micah Bates 11 to go along with eight rebounds.