By Greg Carey
CHARLESTON — Class A No. 1 Webster County had scored at least 58 points in every game this season entering Friday’s semifinal against No. 5 Trinity.
Still, Highlanders’ coach Michael Gray believes his team’s success is predicated on defense.
It certainly was against the Warriors, as Webster County’s defense allowed it to rally from a five-point halftime deficit and win, 45-42.
“These kids have no quit,” Gray said. “We got down a little bit, but we have good senior leadership and bounced back.”
The victory sends the Highlanders (27-0) into Saturday’s Class A title game at noon against No. 6 Parkersburg Catholic and marks the first appearance in a state championship for a Webster County athletic program.
“Those fans have been so great this year,” Gray said. “Everywhere we go, we feel like the support is there.”
With the game tied at 13, the Warriors (22-5) put together a strong second quarter to take a 27-22 lead into halftime.
Briston Bennett made a pair of treys in the period, while Daniel Woods was a force inside and scored six points.
Webster County was held to four points over the first 7:10 of the quarter and fell behind by seven, before field goals from Cole Taylor and Tyler Gray closed the deficit to five at the break.
While Bennett led the charge by making all four of his 3s, Trinity had only two turnovers at halftime against the Highlanders’ extended 2-3 zone.
“It’s a tough one to sit here and talk about,” Trinity coach John Fowkes said. “The first half, we controlled the game and felt like we were getting everything we wanted.”
The Highlanders got to within one point at the halfway mark of the third quarter, but Joel Robertson’s triple pushed the Trinity lead back to four.
Taylor and Dorian Groggs scored the next six points to put Webster in front, before Woods made a jumper to send the game into the fourth tied at 34.
“We talked about settling down and getting through our offense a little deeper,” coach Gray said of his halftime adjustments. “We were our own enemy at that time. We were forcing shots and just needed to settle down and get everybody touches.”
Drew Holcomb’s layup with 6:02 remaining gave the Highlanders the lead for good at 38-36. Neither team scored for the next 2:30, but Groggs got a friendly roll on a 3 to make it a five-point game at the 3:31 mark.
Taylor’s two free throws with 55 seconds left had Webster in front 43-38, before Robertson drained a 3 in response to make it a two-point game.
Following a Webster turnover, Woods made 1-of-2 free throws to trim Trinity’s deficit to one. Gray then stepped to the line and calmly drained a pair with 19 seconds remaining.
Trailing by three in the final seconds, the Warriors turned the ball over, and although Webster’s Garrett Hamrick missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Holcomb came up with the offensive rebound. Holcomb was fouled with two seconds left and also missed the front end, but the Warriors could only muster a halfcourt attempt that was well off the mark at the buzzer.
Taylor had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead all players.
“They kept feeding me and helping me work down low and I got it going,” Taylor said.
Holcomb and Hamrick came down with 12 and nine rebounds, respectively. The trio allowed Webster to out-rebound Trinity, 37-25.
“They got us on the boards,” Fowkes said. “Taylor and Holcomb with twenty-four rebounds stands out. That’s significant.”
Groggs scored 12 points.
Robertson led Trinity with 16 points. Bennett and Woods scored 12 and 11, respectively.
Trinity finished with nine turnovers.