After No. 2 South Charleston replicated last season’s Class AAA Region 3 co-final by defeating Greenbrier East, Black Eagles coach Vic Herbert summarized his team’s performance simply.
He did anything but get deep.
Thankfully for him, though, his team goes nine players deep. And on Tuesday night, both Kevin Williams and Jonah Cosby came off the bench to provide second-quarter lifts.
The pair helped SC move to 24-1 and into next week’s boys state tournament via a 67-53 win over the Spartans at the South Charleston Community Center. Seedings and game times will be released by the SSAC today.
“They played hard,” Herbert said of Greenbrier East. “They’re good. You don’t often play against two Division I players on the same team... At the end, though, we won with defense and being smart.”
The Spartans hit South Charleston with Wake Forest signee Rondale Watson and St. Joseph’s signee Obi Romeo, a 6-foot-10 center. The Black Eagles’ plan was as always: play an aggressive man-to-man defense.
That defense helped and hurt in the early going. In the first half, South Charleston limited Greenbrier East to five field goals and 23 percent shooting. But the Black Eagles were a bit too aggressive. The visitors converted 13-of-15 free throws in the second quarter to stay within 35-29 at halftime. (Herbert sent his team into a zone for much of the second half).
SC, meanwhile, received three 3-point field goals from Cosby in the second stanza. Williams led off the period with a trey, then went baseline. He finished with 12 points.
“I wanted to help us extend the lead,” Williams said. “I don’t normally hit the threes, but when I do it normally lifts the team.”
Watson and Romeo, however, kept Greenbrier East in the game. Late in the third quarter, Romeo made a baseline move for a dunk to pull his team within 45-41. Black Eagle A.D. Cunningham, however, closed the quarter with a steal and layup.
Williams gave SC another goose early in the fourth with a bucket and trey. The latter extended the Black Eagles’ lead to 52-45.
Two developments, though, pushed the game into SC’s corner for good. First, there was a surprising technical foul called on Romeo, right after he’d been called for a personal foul. He was then saddled with four.
Second, while South Charleston began hitting its free throws, Greenbrier East cooled at the line. The Spartans’ Josh Tunstalle missed four chances in one stretch.
Then, to East’s dismay, SC’s leading scorer, sophomore Brandon Knapper, proved to be the team’s closer. After a quiet start, Knapper made his third set of fourth-quarter free throws at 2:32. He stole the ball to help run clock. He made a sweet assist inside to Cunningham. Then, with 56.2 ticks remaining, Knapper provided the icing with a pair of converted free throws. He finished with 15 points, which tied Cunningham for the team lead.
“I just couldn’t hit a shot, so I just tried to get it to my teammates early,” Knapper said. “Coach said if I wasn’t hitting to go to the basket.”
In the game, SC hit 20-of-29 free throws.
“Coach makes us practice free throws every day,” Knapper said. “We’re very aggressive and get to the free throw line a lot. He’s on us every day. It’s a big thing for us.”
“They’re a really talented team,” Greenbrier East coach Jim Justice said of the Black Eagles. “They have size, speed, can defend and are great shooters.
“I thought we had a good game plan going in. We started in a 3-2 and I thought that had them confused.”
Aside from the 15 from Knapper and Cunningham, SC received 14 from Cosby. Watson, Romeo and Tunstalle scored 44 of East’s 53 points.
Greenbrier East (18-7)
Ty Walker 3 0-0 6, Josh Tunstalle 1 7-12 10, Obi Romeo 5 4-7 14, Rondale Watson 6 6-8 20, Isaiah Kinder 1 0-0 3. Totals: 16 17-27 53.
South Charleston (24-1)
A.D. Cunningham 6 2-4 15, Brandon Knapper 2 10-11 15, Kentre Drier 2 3-4 7, Jordan Lewis 1 1-2 3, Anthony Billings 0 1-2 1, Jonah Cosby 4 3-6 14, Kevin Williams 5 0-0 12. Totals: 20 29-29 67.
GE 10 19 12 12 — 53
SC 14 21 12 20 — 67
3-point goals — GE: 4 (Kinder, Tunstalle, Watson 2); SC: 7 (Cunningham, Knapper, Cosby 3, Williams 2). Fouled out — GE: Tunstalle.�