By Cam Huffman
Woodrow Wilson extended its amazing winning streak to 19 games Friday night at the Charleston Civic Center. Win No. 20 would come with a huge prize.
The Flying Eagles (23-4) overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to knock off South Charleston for the second time in three tries, winning 64-57 to capture a spot in the Class AAA state championship game and a shot at its record 17th state title.
“It was an incredible basketball game,” said Woodrow Wilson head coach Ron Kidd. “Both teams played hard. I give South Charleston a lot of credit. They didn’t quit, our guys didn’t quit and hopefully it was a fun game for everybody to watch.”
Ahead 45-39 with 5:27 left to play, South Charleston (24-3) had the game going at its pace and was doing seemingly everything right, but that’s when Woodrow found a spark. Junior guard Donté Nabors found an old fashioned 3-point play to cut the lead to 45-42 and Dai Dai Fortune cut it to one with a transition bucket.
South Charleston quieted the Flying Eagle run with a 3-point play from Devyn Harris, but Nabors quickly answered with a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key.
On the other end in a fast and furious exchange, South Charleston big man Hunter Moles, who finished with 15 points, got to the basket for another two, holding a finger to his lips to quiet the Woodrow crowd.
That was the only motivation senior point guard Andrew Johnson needed. His 3-ball seconds later tied the game at 50-all and Woodrow soon took its first lead of the fourth quarter when Chase Hancock converted a pair of free throws to put his team ahead 54-52 as the Flying Eagle faithful exploded.
Woodrow never trailed again.
South Charleston’s final chance came down three, 59-56 in the final minutes, but Harris’ good look at a game-tying 3 missed the mark. Beckley converted its free throws on the other end to punch its ticket to the finals.
“Coach Yester from Morgantown passed me, and I told him, ‘Thanks for wearing them down last night,’” said Kidd, referring to the Black Eagles’ tight quarterfinal game with the Mohigans. “I think they got a little tired at the end, and I just thank God that our kids had the energy and guts to pull it out.”
Helping the Flying Eagles hang around to have a chance at their late flurry was the play of freshman big man Nequan Carrington, who finished with a game-high 16 points. He was 8-for-10 from the floor and also grabbed a rebound.
“It’s going to be scary when he’s a senior,” said Johnson, who added 14 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, narrowly missing out on a triple-double. “I’m kind of jealous of him. My freshman year, I didn’t even get to come to states. His freshman year, he’s in a state championship.”
Nabors finished with 14 points and eight boards, and Fortune came off the bench for 10 points.
“This one ranks up there pretty high,” said Kidd. “But we can’t enjoy it for long. We have to get ready for the next game.”
South Charleston got 16 points from Harris, including three 3-pointers. Moles scored 15 points and grabbed four rebounds, and Trevond Moles scored 10 points and pulled down a handful of rebounds.
But the Black Eagles shot just 39 percent from the field, failing to convert on many of their opportunities. Woodrow won the rebound battle 35-29.
“We controlled the game until there was 5 minutes to go,” said South Charleston head coach Vic Herbert. “We had it going our way.
“They went on a little run, and some things happened that usually don’t happen to us. You have to hand it to (Woodrow). They did a good job.”
Tonight’s Class AAA championship is scheduled for a 7:15 p.m. tip-off.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
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Tickets available today at WWHS
A limited number of tickets to the Class AAA state title game between Woodrow Wilson and Martinsburg will be on sale today at Woodrow Wilson High School.
Tickets can be purchased from 9 a.m. to noon. The costs are $8 for adults and $6 for students.
The game will start at 7:15 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.