In their previous two meetings, Mount Hope defeated rival Greater Beckley Christian by a combined 69 points.
So imagine Crusaders coach Bill Keenan’s relief when the Mustangs felt the need to stall in the last two minutes of the third quarter of their Class A Region 3, Section 1 semifinal Tuesday night.
“When he held it, I was happy to see that,” Keenan said. “The game was tied, and we were the aggressor at that point. I figured if we could go into the fourth quarter tied, we would be in good shape.”
He was right.
Greater Beckley held the Mustangs to six points in the final period and pulled away for a 64-54 win at Appalachian Bible College. The Crusaders, who lost six of their first eight games, will meet Meadow Bridge at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the sectional championship.
Top-seeded Meadow Bridge advanced with a 61-49 win over Montcalm.
Mount Hope appeared early to be on its way to another blowout of Greater Beckley. Freshman Jalen Jones scored his team’s first nine points inside the first two minutes of the game.
But the Crusaders (7-14) never panicked and eventually tied the game to turn a potential rout into a contest.
This despite a dominant half by Jones, the Mustangs’ leading scorer. He scored 25 of his game-high 33 points before the break.
Jones showed he definitely likes to shoot but also got his teammates involved. His numerous slashing moves to the basket forced the Crusaders to help on defense under the basket, leaving a player uncovered — a player Jones repeatedly dished off to for easy lay-ins.
He also beat the Greater Beckley press by launching a baseball pass to Tyler Pennington to the opposite corner of the other end of the court. Pennington put the ball in off the glass and completed a three-point play to put the Mustangs up 36-30 with 1:25 to play in the half.
But Jones and the rest of his team went cold in the second half. Meanwhile, the Crusaders chipped away until a steal and layup by Dan Gonzales tied the game at 48-48 at the 2:34 mark of the third.
That’s when the Mustangs pulled the ball. Jones dribbled at the jump circle until getting the offense started at the 54-second mark. When nothing opened up, the Mustangs again stalled until there were 17 seconds showing.
Again, nothing. The Crusaders got a defensive rebound and, even though they didn’t score either, it was a small victory.
“I think we got them out of sync there in the second half,” Keenan said. “I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Greater Beckley took the lead for good inside the first minute of the fourth. Later, Luke Wright hit a big 3-pointer that made it a six-point game with 5:46 to go.
“He’s hit big shots all year,” Keenan said. “He’s a senior, and we expected that from him. He’s had a really good year scoring.”
Mount Hope (8-9) helped out, scoring just 16 points in the second half.
“They stepped up big and did a good job making shots,” Mount Hope coach Jim Maynor said. “They played their tails off and did really well tonight.
“We couldn’t take the lid off the basket. We had a lot of good looks and just didn’t knock them down. I guess that’s just how it goes some nights.”
The game wound up being the last in the long history of Mount Hope High School, which will consolidate with Oak Hill in August.
While Keenan said he hates to see the school close, Maynor said the subject was never raised by his team, before the game or after.
“We just came up on the short end of the stick tonight,” Maynor said.
Keith Mullins led the Crusaders in scoring with 21 points. Gonzales added 18 and Wright 14.
Pennington finished with 10 for the Mustangs.
In the first game of the night, Meadow Bridge got 22 points from junior center Chris Gray en route to eliminating Montcalm, 61-49.
First-year Wildcats coach Mark Gladwell said it was nice to get the first one out of the way.
“(I was) a little apprehensive. I didn’t know how we would come out,” Gladwell said. “I knew coach (Lindsey) Jones would have (Montcalm) ready to go. They are very well coached, and I came into this one scared.”
Slowly, the Wildcats (15-5) were able to ease Gladwell’s mind.
“We’re just asking Chris to play to his size,” Gladwell said of the 6-foot-8 junior. “Most of the time, he’s going to have a height advantage. If he can use that — and he does have a good touch.”
Cody White added 19 for Meadow Bridge.
Montcalm (6-16) got 20 from Daniel Pendergrass and 11 from Robert Pennington.
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Meadow Bridge 61, Montcalm 49
Andrew Agee 2 0-0 4, Robert Pennington 5 0-0 11, Daniel Pendergrass 8 2-4 20, Joshua Hamblin 0 0-2 0, Michael Blackwell 2 0-0 6, Brian Clower 1 0-0 2, Brandon Williams 3 0-0 6. Totals: 21 2-6 49.
Meadow Bridge (15-5)
Tyler Bennett 1 0-0 2, Logan Pomeroy 2 2-4 8, Tyler Vandall 2 2-5 8, Cody White 7 5-7 19, Chris Gray 11 0-0 22. Totals: 23 9-16 61.
M 13 7 8 21 — 49
MB 16 12 14 19 — 61
Three-point goals: M: 5 (Pennington, Pendergrass 2, Blackwell 2); MB: 4 (Pomeroy 2, Vandall 2). Fouled out: none.
Greater Beckley Christian 64, Mount Hope 54
Greater Beckley Christian (7-14)
Dan Gonzales 8 0-1 18, Adam Cook 3 2-2 8, Luke Wright 5 0-0 14, Preston Kendrick 1 1-2 3, Keith Mullins 8 4-7 21. Totals: 25 7-12 64.
Mount Hope (8-9)
Jalen Jones 13 3-6 33, Mike McFarland 4 1-2 9, Tyler Pennington 3 4-5 10, Sean Bunting 1 0-0 2, Demetri Gray 0 0-0 0, Deon Marion 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 8-13 54.
GBC 18 16 14 18 — 64
MH 18 20 10 6 — 54
Three-point goals: GBC: 7 (Gonzales 2, Wright 4, Mullins); MH: 4 (Jones 4). Fouled out: none.