The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 2, 2014

Spartans also claim a AAA crown

BECKLEY — Greenbrier East head coach Jim Justice was anything but pleased with the Spartans’ performance in their Big Atlantic Classic semifinal win over Preston Friday. East pulled off the victory, but didn’t play the type of basketball the coach expects.

That was quickly remedied in Saturday’s final against Lewis County at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

The Spartans (11-3) scored 15 consecutive points after Lewis County’s Joe Nichols knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 3-all, and they never looked back, winning 70-45 to claim one of two Class AAA championships.

East found points inside and out with 6-foot-7 center Obi Romeo scoring 10 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Rondale Watson knocked down a pair of 3-balls and got to the rim for four more field goals to finish with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. He took good shots and didn’t try to do too much, something that Justice had been preaching to the Wake Forest signee.

Tyler Canterbury stroked four first-half 3-pointers to finish with 14 points to help break down the Lewis County zone. The Spartans shot 45.5 percent from the field and finished the game 8-of-25 from 3-point range a night after struggling from the perimeter.

“I feel a whole lot better,” said Justice. “The effort was a whole lot better, the defense was a lot better and we executed well.”

The matchup of the night was between Romeo, a St. Joseph’s signee, and John Riley, the Minutemen’s post player, who came into the tournament averaging 25 points per game and scored that many in Friday’s semifinal to go along with 20 rebounds.

Riley held his own, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 boards, but Romeo defended him well, avoiding foul trouble to hold Lewis County’s top scorer well below his season average.

“He’s a good player, but experience matters,” said Romeo. “I’ve studied his game, and I’m a good defender. I give him some credit, he’s a good player. He did all he could. It’s always a lot of fun to play in games like this.”

Lewis County’s only other true offensive threat was Nichols, who finished with 11 points. Nobody else reached double figures for the Minutemen, who shot just 30 percent from the field.

“We didn’t come out to play,” said Lewis County head coach Charles Simms. “But this tournament gives us AAA competition that we need. It’s a great experience all the way around. I just thought we came out kind of flat. But give Greenbrier East credit. They’ve got a great team.”

The Spartans, ranked No. 8 in the Class AAA polls, celebrated the championship of the 25th annual Mountain State basketball showcase after being shocked in the semifinals last year against Point Pleasant. They’ve won eight of their last nine games, the only loss coming to national power Oak Hill Academy.

“I don’t think we’re the eighth team in the state, but we can’t control that,” said Watson of his team, whose only loss to a West Virginia squad came on Dec. 13 against Westside. “We just have to come out and prove it the rest of the season. We can compete to win a state title, and that’s what we’re going to work to do.”

Lewis County had won five straight coming into the game, including an upset of Class AAA No. 3 Capital on Friday. Prior to the loss to the Spartans, the Minutemen had only lost to Class AAA No. 7 Parkersburg South and Class AA No. 1 Robert C. Byrd.

“That’s a really nice basketball team,” said Justice. “We played well and made it no contest, but they’re a really good team.”

East will be back in action Tuesday at sectional rival Princeton. Lewis County will be at Elkins on Wednesday.

Lewis County (7-3)

Mark Moran 2-8 0-0 5, Jaret Mullooly 0-1 0-0 0, Chris Stout 0-1 0-0 0, Ben Riley 3-4 0-0 7, Damien White 0-1 0-0 0, Dylan Gump 1-5 0-0 2, Skylar Carlton 2-9 0-0 4, Joe Nichols 4-11 0-0 11, Austin Skinner 0-3 0-0 0, Johnnie Riley 4-12 6-8 14, Tyler Gump 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 17-57 6-8 45.

Greenbrier East (11-3)

Ty Walker 1-1 0-0 2, Rondale Watson 6-14 5-6 19, Isaiah Kinder 3-7 0-0 8, Josh McClung 1-2 0-0 2, Ben Allen 1-1 0-0 2, Josh Tunstalle 1-5 5-6 7, Kamen Reynolds 1-2 0-0 2, Billy Honaker 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Canterbury 5-13 0-0 14, Austin Jerman 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Lindsey 0-0 0-0 0, Seth Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Forest Vass 1-2 0-0 2, Obi Romeo 4-6 2-6 10, Evan Canterbury 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-55 12-18 70.

LC    8    13    9    15    —    45

GE    20    19    15    16    —    70

3-pointers — LC: 5 (Moran, Riley, Nichols 3). GE: 8 (Watson 2, Kinder 2, Canterbury 4). Fouled out — none.

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