By Greg Carey
CHARLESTON — Kerion Martin’s layup with 25 seconds remaining gave Capital a one-point lead over Morgantown, and the Cougars made it stand in a 50-47 victory Thursday at the Charleston Coliseum.
“I’d definitely like to win more comfortably, but that’s been our group,” Capital coach Matt Greene said. “It’s been frustrating at times, but it’s extremely rewarding to see the growth of this team.
“We’ve had a lot of close games down the stretch and that helped us. We play an extremely tough schedule and sometimes you don’t finish off those close games, but it’s been a learning experience.”
Class AAA No. 4 Capital (21-5) advances to face No. 1 Martinsburg in a Friday semifinal.
The Cougars led the Mohigans, 46-43, at the 2-minute mark, but a jumper by Morgantown’s Mac McMillen brought the Mohigans (16-10) to within a point with 1:31 to play. Two free throws from Garrett Haines allowed MHS to take a one-point lead with 36 seconds left, but Martin answered after driving to his left and finishing near the rim with 25 seconds on the clock.
“They were in an extended 2-3 (zone) and I saw middle was wide open,” Martin recalled. “I’m left-handed so I just decided to dribble through and go score.”
Haines got a good look at a 3-pointer on the other end, but it was off the mark. The Cougars’ Cavonte Duncan made a pair of free throws with three seonds remaining, before a Mohigans’ turnover sealed the verdict.
“He had a great look,” Morgantown coach Dave Tallman said. “It felt good and looked good, but it just didn’t drop for us.
“It’s tough when you feel like you compete and play really hard and it’s that physical. It’s tough to play basketball and I’ll leave it at that.”
Morgantown couldn’t have asked for a better start as the Mohigans ended the first quarter with 14 unanswered points in 3:09 to hold a 16-4 lead.
Haines and Alex Rudy made 3s during the surge, while Cam Selders scored six points on three field goals.
“Morgantown did a really good job of taking us out of what we wanted to do in the first quarter,” Greene said. “We prepared for zone, but it’s a lot tougher when you see it in person.”
At the start of the second quarter, Haines made another 3 toup the Mohigans’ lead to 15, but they made only one more field goal the remainder of the half.
Duncan’s two treys cut the Capital deficit to 19-10, and teammate Ethan Kent connected on two 3s in the period as well, the second of which tied the game at 21.
Morgantown went the final 5:22 of the half without a field goal and entered the break trailing 22-21.
“We were good against their pressure when we were passing it,” Tallman said. “We weren’t very good when we were dribbling through it.”
Neither team led by more than four throughout the third quarter and Selders made a layup for the final points of the period to break a 36-all tie.
Capital led by as much as five in the fourth when K.J. Figures converted a layup to make it 43-38 with 4:13 remaining. Morgantown outscored the Cougars, 9-3, over the next 3:47 to regain the lead, but it wasn’t enough.
Both teams struggled at the free-throw line. Morgantown finished 5-for-13, while Capital was 12-for-23.
“We missed a lot of layups and we were terrible from the free-throw line,” Tallman said. “If we make those, we don’t have to worry about last-second shots.”
Duncan had a game-high 17 points, while Figures scored 14 in the win.
“I felt like I had to put points on the board for my team,” Duncan said.
Haines led MHS with 15 points and Selders chipped in with 12.