Story & Photo
By Carl Holcomb
Beep. Beep. The alarm went off for Tucker County at halftime, waking them up in time to secure the Class A Region II Section 2 semifinal victory over the Cougars.
A berth in the Class A Region II Section 2 championship and Region II final was on the line last Wednesday in Hambleton and East Hardy fought hard to be in contention within three points at halftime, but Tucker County switched gears and pounced for an 81-52 win.
“We played a lot better D and pressured the ball. We woke up, needed a wake-up call,” Tucker County coach Dave Helmick remarked.
“At times we’ve done that this year playing with more effort in the second half. We got out and ran our offense, made some fast breaks.
That’s what we needed to do the whole game. East Hardy played us tough both games in the regular season. They are strong and athletic, sometimes they get us down in the post and we have to deal with that. Our goal was to beat them up and down the floor and I thought we did that a lot better in the second half. We’ve always been to the section finals.”
Tucker County has been in the section championship game every year for about two decades.
The Mountain Lions got the scoring started with a jumper by Josh Kincaid, but East Hardy responded with a 3-pointer from Drew Kelican to take the lead at 7:26.
East Hardy’s Brett Tharp grabbed a defensive rebound, then Tucker County got the ball back on rebound by Kordell Fulton and couldn’t connect again as Aden Funkhouser collected the carom for the Cougars.
Fulton swiped the ball and passed to Ethan Crosten for a layup to regain the lead.
[private] Corey McDonald assisted Tharp on a 3-pointer as the lead changed once again at 6:12, 6-4.
It took about 32 seconds for the Mountain Lions to tie the game on a basket by Crosten.
Crosten stole the ball and was whistled for a charge as Tharp defended the hoop.
Fulton made a defensive rebound, but the ball was lost out of bounds.
Tharp grabbed a rebound and was fouled, then Crosten snatched the ball and Wesley Snyder scored to go up 8-6 at 4:19.
Fulton was fouled on a steal and made one of two free throws, then Ricky Robinson collected the carom for the Cougars.
There was no scoring for a minute and change, despite a steal by McDonald and the second rebound attempt by Tharp led to a score by Jesse Dove at 2:55, 9-8.
Crosten and Kincaid got offensive rebounds with a foul coming on the latter leading to two free throws.
Jacob Cousin made a defensive rebound and Tucker County got a score by Crosten, then Crosten swiped the ball and scored again for a 15-8 advantage at 1:53.
The Cougars recovered from a block by Kincaid and Kelican nailed a 3-pointer.
Tharp and Crosten got defensive rebounds, then Tharp made another rebound and Robinson went up for shot and the ball was stripped by Fulton.
Tharp deflected a missed shot and it went out to Corrick Ambrose, then Ambrose drew a foul and made both foul shots.
Dove was fouled on the baseline and made one of two free throws, Crosten walked and Tharp netted a jumper with two seconds left in the frame for a 17-14 score.
Robinson collected an offensive rebound and made a jumper to begin the second period.
Fulton answered for the Mountain Lions, then Fulton got a rebound and Tharp blocked the ensuing shot and McDonald recovered the ball only to have the next attempt go awry and Crosten drew a foul making both opportunities.
Tharp made a layup to keep it a one possession game at 5:55, 21-18.
Tucker County’s Jeffrey Snyder scored after a rebound by Cousin.
Robinson collected a rebound, then Fulton deflected the pass out of bounds.
Cousin blocked a shot and there was a scramble for the ball with Tharp making a timeout.
McDonald assisted Dove on a long range jumper, then Robinson made a defensive rebound and Tharp scored in the paint for a 23-22 score.
Robinson and McDonald collected rebounds with the latter creating a field goal as the Cougars took a 24-23 lead at 4:05.
McDonald stole the ball and passed to Dove for a basket, 26-23.
Another steal by McDonald resulted in a miss and Dove got the board, but stepped out of bounds.
Cousin netted a putback for the Mountain Lions, then got a defensive board and scored again to regain the lead 27-26 at 2:31.
Cousin blocked a shot after a rebound by Dove, then collected another rebound and passed to Fulton, who was fouled and added two free throws.
Tharp drew a foul when scoring a field goal, but missed the extra bucket for a 29-28 score at 1:59.
Fulton made a field goal about 30 seconds later, then the Cougars lost the ball out of bounds and Robinson responded with a blocked shot.
Kelican went to the fee throw line and made one free throw with a minute left in the half.
Crosten drew a foul and added one free throw.
Robinson netted a jumper on the ensuing possession, but the Mountain Lions got a basket by Ambrose for a 34-31 halftime edge.
“The first half I thought we were in shape and executed. We never got tired and we were able to control the tempo in the first half,” East Hardy Coach Chris Hahn stated.
“We controlled the game in the first half, then in the second half, we just did it all year. We turn one mistake into five. A two-point lead goes into down ten. Tonight it seemed like we never really rallied. We kept stressing and taking bad shots. They capitalized on it. Every time we made a mistake, they capitalized on it and that’s what good teams do. You’re playing the semifinals here and that’s what good teams do. They executed more than we did. I told the kids we finished .500 and that’s a step up, it’s not where we want to be, but it’s a step up. I was stretched thin coaching four teams, but I gave it all I had. The one thing I asked was that they do the same. All of my seniors and all of the kids in general stepped up to the plate. They worked hard even when I wasn’t in the gym. I was so proud of our kids’ maturity with the odds stacked against them. I can’t say enough of these seniors Ricky, Corey, and Bradley, they are three great human beings and they are going to be great at whatever they do. I am just proud to say I was able to help.
Kelican assisted Robinson on a jumper to begin the third quarter, down 34-33.
Tharp, Cousin, and Kelican grabbed rebounds before a steal by Kincaid and a rebound by Robinson was followed by a walk.
McDonald stole the ball and grabbed an offensive rebound leading to a foul and two free throws for the lead 35-34 at 5:42.
Kincaid scored on the next series, then Cousin got a rebound and Crosten crashed into Robinson creating a basket without a foul to go up 38-35 at 5:15.
Cousin blocked a shot, then Tucker County lost the ball out of bounds and Tharp went up and under the hoop for two points.
Kincaid responded with a jumper, then Dove answered with a runner along the baseline, 40-39.
Wesley Snyder knocked down a basket, then scored again off a steal by Crosten.
Tucker County created a 10-0 run as Crosten, Kincaid, and Snyder scored with two of the field goals coming off turnovers, 50-39 at 2:15.
Snyder and McDonald exchanged steals, then Crosten was fouled on a steal.
The Mountain Lions lost the ball after a missed shot, then Tharp got an offensive board and was fouled leading to one free throw.
Robinson made a steal and Tharp took the ball to the hoop for a 50-42 score.
Kincaid made two free throws and Crosten made a defensive rebound leading to a field goal by Snyder, 54-42 which as carried into the fourth quarter.
Tucker County went a 12-1 run to start the final stanza which created enough separation and momentum to squash the Cougars attempt to salvage the meltdown, 66-43 with 5:10 to go.
Kincaid got the first basket in between rebounding the ball, then Snyder hit a 3-pointer and Kincaid blocked a shot, Fulton made a three-point play, Snyder stole the ball and Kincaid scored, Tharp notched a free throw for East Hardy, and Snyder added a field goal for the Mountain Lions.
After a bucket by Funkhouser, Crosten and Fulton scored to make it 70-46.
Kincaid and Robinson collected defensive rebounds, then Snyder got another board and McDonald stole the ball leading to a jumper by Tharp with 3:15 remaining.
Robinson and McDonald sandwiched field goals around one by Cousin for a 73-52 score with 2:16 left.
After a pair of free throws by Fulton, the Mountain Lions bench players came in and made three field goals off two turnovers to close out the game 81-52.
Tharp led the Cougars with 19 points, followed by Dove with nine, and Robinson with eight.
Crosten paced Tucker County with 17 points, followed by Snyder and Fulton with 15 apiece, and Kincaid added 14.
The Mountain Lions escaped Keyser with the section championship against Pendleton County with both team advancing to the Region II Championships this week. [/private]