Playing its fourth fast-paced game in five days and facing its toughest team over the stretch, Greater Beckley Christian head coach Brian Helton was anxious to see how his team would respond to the challenge provided by Class A No. 3 Charleston Catholic.
Helton's squad passed the test with flying colors.
Placing five players in double figures and creating havoc inside for the visitors, Greater Beckley came away with a solid 60-49 win Tuesday night.
"(Charleston Catholic) is a really good team and very well coached," Helton said. "So we are happy to get the win. We know how hard they are going to play and our kids tried to match that intensity. I thought we did a really good job of defending in the halfcourt and on offense, getting the ball down inside."
The inside combo of Isaiah Hairston and Kristijan Krunic for Greater Beckley caused havoc all night for the Irish. Hairtson finished with 15 points, while Krunic added 10. However, Krunic's ability to keep the ball alive and grab offensive rebounds gave the home team the extra looks it needed, especially in the opening half.
"He is really improving and has a great work ethic," Helton said. "Him and Isaiah have really partnered up, getting in the gym together and playing a lot of one-on-one in the post. Those two have really made a good combination."
In the opening quarter, it was Charleston Catholic with the energy and the ability to get in the lane to build an 11-7 lead after one quarter.
Coming off an explosive performance the previous night, Helton felt Monday's game may have factored into his team's slow start.
"I saw a lot of game slippage tonight. Last night we played so well, that I thought maybe early we might have had a little hangover," Helton said. "When you play one of the top teams in the state, you can't have a hangover or you will have what happened to us early."
With 6:16 to play before the half and with starting defensive specialist Sean Hoskins sitting with two fouls, Helton put both his big men on the floor at the same time.
With the bigs controlling the paint inside and creating room on the outside, Greater Beckley exploded for an 18-2 run to close the half with a 28-17 advantage.
"We went with a bigger lineup tonight. I thought early we could get it done without going to the big lineup, but hats off to them, they had a great defensive plan. We went big and I thought that made a difference for us," Helton said.
A quick 3 from Aiden Satterfield and five straight from Zion Suddeth cut into the lead to open the third quarter. Greater Beckley answered with back-to-back buckets from Hairston and Krunic, as well as a drive from Kaden Smallwood.
A 3-pointer from Thad Jordan at the 3:19 mark made the lead 40-26 and Greater Beckley appeared in full control. However, the Irish turned up the heat and responded with a 7-0 run to close the quarter.
"Their transition defense is great," Helton said. "They do a great job. When you rebound it kinda slows you up a little bit and the other guys do a good job of getting back and finding people in transition. They just, No. 1, do a great job with their transition defense, and No. 2, they really took care of the basketball in the backcourt, so we never could speed them up that way," Helton said.
In a frantic fourth quarter full of fouls and aggressive defense, the Irish could only get within six points, while Greater Beckley led by as many as 14 points down the stretch.
"I think for the first time in a long time we had a team that could match us size-wise inside," Helton said. "They were real physical and their kids just play so hard. I think that was an adjustment we had to make, not so much from a coaching standpoint, our guys just had to settle in."
First-year Charleston Catholic head coach Hunter Moles was short on words after the loss.
"It was a tough loss, (but) we have another one tomorrow," Moles said. "We will have to watch the film and see (what happened)."
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Charleston Catholic (7-3)
Anthony Minardi 2, Thomas Blaydes 5, Zion Suddeth 13, Aiden Satterfield 12, Marshall Pile 12, Garrett Ware 5. Totals: 16 11-19 49.
Greater Beckley Christian (10-3)
Elijah Edwards 11, Thad Jordan 10, Isaiah Hairston 15, Kristijan Krunic 10, Kaden Smallwood 14. Totals: 19 17-26 60.
CC: 11 6 16 16 — 49
GBC: 7 21 12 20 — 60
3-point goals: CC: 6 (Blaydes, Suddeth, Satterfield 2), GBC: 5 (Edwards 2, Jordan 2, Smallwood). Fouled out: None