By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
A killer Charleston Catholic surge torpedoed Valley’s state championship aspirations Thursday.
In a Class A boys state tournament morning quarterfinal at the Charleston Civic Center, the Irish outscored the Greyhounds 12-0 in a span of 3:19 in the third quarter, transforming a three-point deficit into a nine-point cushion and setting the stage for a 54-44 Irish victory.
The win advances No. 3-seeded Charleston Catholic, the 2013 state runner-up, to a semifinal meeting at 11:15 a.m. today with No. 2 Notre Dame, which vanquished No. 7 Tucker County 63-57 Thursday afternoon.
The Greyhounds ended a stellar season with a 22-4 mark.
“In the first half, we played as well as we could play,” said Valley coach Joe McCoy. “Midway through (the third quarter) we kind of panicked when they went to that 2-2-1 trap.
“We didn’t attack.”
Catholic did, and that was the ball game.
After Raeshawn Breckenridge’s free throw handed Valley a 27-24 lead at the 4:00 mark of the third period, things took a decided turn for the worse for the Greyhounds.
Ratcheting up the defensive intensity, the Irish proceeded to reel off 12 straight points, with eight of those points occurring directly — or at least indirectly — off of Valley miscues.
With the Irish lead at 28-27, Nick George scored four straight — two on a pull-up jumper and two more in the paint following a Valley turnover — to make it 32-27. Teammate Patrick Hurlihy followed with a putback, and Garret McCarty capped the spurt with a deuce after a steal on the other end.
“We just kind of stood around,” McCoy said.
“We just got lost,” said Valley sophomore Zac Warden, who led his team with a 13-point, 15-rebound, three-block performance. “We had a good first half, but (in the third) just kept holding the ball and not getting it to the middle.”
Valley didn’t crumble totally following Catholic’s big run, cutting the deficit to five points, 36-31, on single foul shots from Henry Barron-Houchins and Breckenridge to start the final period. But the Irish later fashioned a 7-0 run, with Russell Miller’s transition bucket pushing the advantage to 12 points, 46-34, with 3:25 left.
The Greyhounds couldn’t recover.
McCoy called it overall a ‘well-played ball game.’
Lamenting his team’s bad stretch, though, he said, “Take a couple of the turnovers away and a couple of the missed shots …”
Valley gave Charleston Catholic all it could handle in the first half. Committing just two turnovers to nine for the more tourney-tested Irish, the Greyhounds — making their first state tourney appearance in 10 years — trailed just 10-8 after one quarter. Valley then got a Warden 3-pointer off a Barron-Houchins feed with 1:07 to play to carry a 21-18 advantage into the locker room at intermission.
Irish coach Bill McClanahan said it was his team -—not Valley — that appeared to be tourney newcomers in the first 16 minutes. In his assessment, “The team in the white (Catholic) had the least experience.”
“Valley dictated the tempo in the first half. Valley dictated the style in the first half. Valley was quicker and tougher than us in the first half,” he said. “Fortunately, there’s a halftime break to discuss … what we needed to improve on.”
Hurlihy netted 15 points and swatted away eight Valley shots and George had 13 points and 15 boards to pace the Irish.
Breckenridge added 10 points and Payne eight for Valley, which shot just 22.0 percent (13-for-59) from the floor.
Druw Bowen collected nine rebounds, and Barron-Houchins had three steals and three assists.
McCoy praised his seniors. “The seniors have had a good senior year, going 10-0 in football and 22-3 in basketball.” A nucleus of young players will continue the trend in the future, he said. “Things are looking up.”
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Henry Barron-Houchins 2-13 1-2 7, Keyshawn Payne 3-9 0-0 8, Raeshawn Breckenridge 4-9 1-2 10, Zac Warden 2-13 8-10 15, Druw Bowen 1-9 1-2 3, Donte Wilkerson 1-5 0-0 3, Tracy Conliffe 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 13-59 11-16 44.
Charleston Catholic (20-6)
Garret McCarty 2-15 0-0 4, Hayden McCarty 3-4 2-2 8, Russell Miller 4-6 1-3 9, Nick George 5-12 2-5 13, Patrick Hurlihy 7-12 1-2 15, Rodger Burdette 2-2 1-2 5, Justin Snyder 0-0 0-0 0, Cameron Imani 0-0 0-0 0, Sam McKown 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Fairless 0-0 0-0 0, Aaron Persily 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-51 7-14 54.
V 8 13 8 15 — 44
CC 10 8 18 18 — 54
3-point goals — V: 7-23 (Barron-Houchins 2-6, Payne 2-6, Warden 1-5, Breckenridge 1-2, Wilkerson 1-4); CC: 1-8 (G. McCarty 0-4, H. McCarty 0-1, George 1-3). Fouled out — None.