WINFIELD — Class AA No. 1 Winfield tends to hurt opponents significantly in two areas — points in transition and on the offensive glass.
In the first half of Monday’s game, Class AAA No. 7 South Charleston was largely unaffected by the Generals’ press, but even when the turnovers started piling up after halftime, the Black Eagles’ rebounding prowess and its own defense were enough to get by.
SC carried a 45-28 advantage on the boards, limited Winfield to just 28.6 percent shooting and came up with answers each time it needed one in escaping with a 51-47 road victory.
That score reversed a 63-59 overtime home loss to Winfield earlier in the season and gave the Black Eagles a momentum boost as they prepare for two pivotal road games in the Mountain State Athletic Conference at Huntington and at Woodrow Wilson later this week.
“We’re a better team now,” junior guard Maliha Witten said. “We had our defense together and we locked them down.”
Using a zone, SC slowed the tempo and forced Winfield into executing halfcourt sets. It led to an 11-2 lead out of the gate, and after Winfield led 2-0, SC wouldn’t trail again.
But that didn’t mean there weren’t some tight moments as the Generals (15-2) continued to try and fight their way out of the early hole.
An 8-0 run in the second quarter cut SC’s lead to 21-19, but the Black Eagles answered with an 11-2 spurt to end the half to take a 32-21 advantage into the break.
It was a microcosm of things to come as the Generals never could quite get over the hump, even as their press roared to life, forcing 18 SC turnovers in the second half.
“They’re still fighting,” Winfield coach Kelsey Spang said. “They still fought to decrease the gap and they gave everything they had; it was just a little too late.”
Both teams came to a screeching halt offensively in the third as Winfield outscored SC 7-6. In the fourth, the Generals gave themselves opportunities but couldn’t come up with the big basket when they needed it. South Charleston went 9 for 11 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, with Witten and Genevieve Potter each hitting four to help hold the Generals off.
SC coach Gary Greene missed Monday’s game while tending to his wife, who was ill. Assistant Ahmed Witten took over in his place and what he saw was his team register a second straight win over ranked competition on the road. SC beat No. 6 George Washington a week ago.
In their three losses, the Black Eagles (12-3) were hurt by late mistakes, something that again plagued them on Monday as two turnovers inside the final 20 seconds gave Winfield multiple opportunities to tie the game. But SC rode its defense and its will to a victory, one that everyone involved was glad to take.
“They’re a senior-oriented team and we’re young,” Ahmed Witten said. “We’ve got to learn how to fight through all that, grit and grind and it’s going to take time and getting into those situations to come out with wins like that.
“They stuck together. They never folded and our defense is what takes us. They didn’t quit on ‘D.’ ”
It took two defensive stops, as Winfield got looks while down three points after Mara McGrew hit a 3-pointer inside the final minute. SC’s Myra Cuffee was forced out of bounds on the sideline with 19.1 seconds to go, but ZZ Russell was called for a charge and fouled out with 15.4 seconds remaining. Cuffee was then called for an offensive foul on the ensuing play as SC tried to break Winfield’s press.
It led to a runner in the lane for Winfield’s Lauren Hudson that wouldn’t go and South Charleston’s Mya Toombs hit the second of two free throws on the other end with 9.1 seconds left to finish off the scoring.
Witten led SC with 19 points to go with 11 rebounds. Potter added nine tallies and Cuffee finished with eight points, all in the first half, and added 10 rebounds.
Russell led Winfield with 19 points with Hudson adding 13 points, nine rebounds and five steals.