Meadow Bridge’s Travis Sheaves, right, grabs a rebound away from Tucker County’s Eric Wamsley during their state tournament game Thursday at the Charleston Civic Center.

CHARLESTON — Meadow Bridge had waited 32 years for a boys state tournament appearance, so the Wildcats wanted to milk it for all it was worth.

No. 8 seed Meadow Bridge battled top-seeded Tucker County for a full half, but the Wildcats finally wilted to the more athletic Mountain Lions, 63-46, in a Class A quarterfinal Thursday at the Charleston Civic Center.

Tucker actually found itself trailing 28-27 to the scrappy Fayette County team after two quarters, but the Lions did exactly what veteran Meadow Bridge coach Ed McCall had feared most to assume control in the second half. Before many fans had settled in their seats for the final half of action, Tucker rolled off eight straight points to move into a 35-28 lead with 5:48 left. Tucker got a pair of free throws from Dylan Simmons to start the crucial run, and Simmons followed with a stickback to make it 31-28.

Teammate L.J. Gravelle then took his turn, scoring a layup and then a jumper to push the margin to seven points. The Lions kept up the pressure and eventually wore down the Wildcats. The lead had ballooned to 49-37 by quarter’s end.

“They did some things right off the bat in the second half, and we didn’t recover,” McCall said. “They stretched the floor on us. They’re an awfully good team. Once they got rolling, it was hard for us to stop them.

“They did essentially the same thing in the second half as they did in the first, but they did a better job executing.”

One of his seniors, Travis Sheaves, concurred.

“They didn’t change up their sets much,” said Sheaves, who helped the Wildcats battle Tucker’s interior tandem of Gravelle (26 points) and Eric Wamsley (12 points) all night. “They executed and they finished, and they made us pay for our mistakes.”

Meadow Bridge cut it to 49-39 at the outset of the final quarter on an Eric Halstead jumper, but Tucker responded with a Gravelle layup in the paint and a Simmons jumper to move back out to a 53-39 lead.

“We did what we had to do,” Tucker coach Tom Gutshall said. “I don’t feel, especially in the first half, we were a No. 1 team.”

Thankfully for the Mountain Lion faithful, there was the matter of having two more quarters to play.

McCall said the first minutes of the second half proved to be his team’s undoing.

“We really emphasized coming out in the second half and establishing something from the get-go,” he said. Instead, it was Tucker which accomplished that. “The first three possessions defensively went their way, and we didn’t start well.

“And I’m the patron saint of whining. We lost conditioning (over the past month of the season due to a rash of illnesses and snow days), and we got winded.

“They’re nine deep, and we had seven and a half to eight.”

Meadow Bridge gave Tucker fits in the first half. The ’Cats took advantage of four Billy Trump three-pointers and cold Tucker shooting (11-of-33, including numerous easy misses inside) to take the slim lead into the locker room.

“We missed 11 layups (in the first two quarter),” Gutshall said. “We shouldn’t be nervous.

“But the kids responded real well. In the second half, we picked up our defense somewhat, and we executed way better (including shooting 52 percent — 13-of-25).”

Trump finished with a team-high 20 points for Meadow Bridge, which concluded the season with a 12-12 record. Halstead added nine and Nate Neely eight, while Sheaves supplied seven points and 13 rebounds.

“I’m as proud as I can be to sit here with these three guys (Trump, Neely and Sheaves were with him at the post-game press conference),” McCall said, “as well as the other nine players on the team.

“It’s about the journey, the process.”

Tucker (23-2) advanced to play either Charleston Catholic or Buffalo at 7:15 p.m. today.

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Trump 6-18 2-2 20, Neely 3-7 2-2 8, T.Bennett 1-2 0-0 2, Kincaid 0-1 0-0 0, Sheaves 3-8 1-4 7, Clendenin 0-3 0-0 0, Halsted 4-5 1-2 9, Toney 0-0 0-0 0, McGee 0-1 0-0 0, Adkins 0-0 0-0 0, J.Bennett 0-1 0-0 0, Gillespie 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-46 6-10 46.


Crosten 1-9 3-4 5, Dillard 2-4 0-4 4, Simmons 5-11 4-4 14, Wamsley 5-14 1-3 12, Gravelle 10-15 6-6 26, Sines 0-0 0-0 0, Myers 0-0 0-0 0, Slaubaugh 1-1 0-0 2, Brusak 0-0 0-0 0, Poling 0-4 0-0 0, Snyder 0-0 0-0 0, Burns 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-58 14-21 63.

MB 14 14 9 9 — 46

TC 16 11 22 14 — 63

3-point goals—Meadow Bridge 6-15 (Trump 6-13, Halsted 0-1, McGee 0-1), Tucker County 1-8 (Wamsley 1-5, Simmons 0-1, Gravelle 0-2). Fouled out—Bennett. Rebounds—Meadow Bridge 30 (Sheaves 13), Tucker County 38 (Wamsley 9). Assists—Meadow Bridge 11 (Neely 3), Tucker County 17 (Wamsley 5). Total fouls—Meadow Bridge 16, Tucker County 10. Technical—Crosten. A—NA.

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