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Crusaders Rally From 12 Down To Eliminate Hillbillies

PHOTO | Boothe Davis: Captured by the Moment Photography

Bill Lusk | WVOW Sports

CHARLESTON, WVa Kendrick Wilson scored 20 points, and Greater Beckley Christian knocked second-seeded Man out of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Class A boys basketball state tournament, 63-57, at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center Tuesday afternoon.

Kaden Smallwood added 18 points and eight assists and John Rose scored 11 for the seventh-seeded Crusaders, who advanced to the Class A semifinals for the second time in school history and first time under coach Justin Arvon. The Crusaders will play third-seeded Tucker County at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday.

Greater Beckley trailed Man, 38-26, at halftime and closed the game on a 15-2 to overcome a seven-point Hillbilly lead in the final 3:59.

“I am proud of this team,” Arvon said. “Man is an outstanding, and we knew it was going to be a battle and it absolutely was. We didn’t lay down at halftime when we could have.”

Greater Beckley became the seventh school to reach the semifinals ranked seventh, joining Wheeling Central as the only Class A school ranked seventh to reach the semifinals since seeding began in 2005.

The Crusaders, who had to forfeit 12 victories in their first 16 games due to the use of ineligible players, improved to 6-20. If not for the forfeits, Greater Beckley would be 18-8 and seeded higher than seventh in the Class A field.

“First off, congratulations to Greater Beckley, but if you think that is a seven seed, you need your head examined,” Man coach TJ Blevins said. “That is no typical seven seed, and we knew when we got the draw, that it was going to be a tough one.”

“I am not happy with the loss and not happy with the draw,” Blevins said. “That is a hell of a seven seed and I’ll just say that.”

Arvon said Greater Beckley, who replaced Man at the top of the rankings in January and spent most of the season at the top before being replaced by current No. 1 James Monroe, has used the low seed as a motivational factor moving forward.

“I think so,” Arvon said. “We knew what we had, we earned it, and it’s been a hard road and man, we showed up.”

Man, who had its 18-game winning streak snapped and finished the year 22-3, led for 24:20 of the first half.

The Hillbillies jumped out to a 14-9 lead after one quarter of play before catching fire in the second quarter to extend the margin to 38-26 at halftime.

Man, who shot 13-of-23 in the first half, made 7-of-9 attempts and was a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range in a 24-point second quarter.

Caleb Blevins, who led Man with 20 points, had 15 points in the opening half on 5-of-8 shooting, and Aden Martin scored 12 points after knocking down 4-of-5 shots from the field to fuel the Man offense.

Greater Beckley turned up the intensity and started the second half with a 14-2 run to take a 42-40 lead on Smallwood’s layup with 3:26 to play in the third quarter.

“You saw a difference in effort and intensity in the second half that wasn’t there the first half,” Arvon said. “We refocused at halftime and got back to some things on offense that we do well.”

Man settled down after the first media timeout of the second half and worked the ball inside to Jeremiah Harless, who scored the Hillbillies last six points of the quarter to give Man a 46-44 lead after three quarters.

“We played well all year in the third quarter this season, but for whatever reason we didn’t play that well in this third quarter this game,” Blevins said. “We always say in the locker room, that the first three minutes of the third quarter is going to dictate a lot of things.”

Greater Beckley tied it, 46-46, on Wilson’s layup with 7:29 to play before Man responded with a 9-2 run to take a 55-48 lead with 4:07 to play in the fourth.

It would appear that Man was in control and heading for a berth in Thursday’s semifinals, but Harless picked up his fourth foul with 4:03 to play and just four seconds later picked up his fifth foul with 3:59 to play.

Harless finished the game with a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds and also blocked five shots

“That changed a lot of things,” Blevins said. “That is the nature of the beast, and when you play hard you tend to foul a little too much. We had no inside presence.”

With Harless out of the game, Greater Beckley’s guard duo of Smallwood and Wilson were able to get downhill and score without the 6’5’’ senior in the paint protecting the rim.

“We were able to get them spread out on defensive end once Harless went out,” Arvon said. “Our guards were able to get to the rim easier, and when he’s not in there it was a huge factor that really turned the tide.”

Smallwood scored four points in a span of 0:15 to bring the Crusaders within three, 55-52, with 3:44 to play.

Martin’s coast to coast layup with 3:08 to play put Man on top 57-52, but it would be the final points of the afternoon for the Hillbillies.

Greater Beckley got a pair of free throws from Wilson followed by a Sean-David Kadjo’s basket and a Wilson layup to go ahead 58-57 with 1:46 to play.

Man missed its next two attempts and a pair of free throws from Rose gave Greater Beckley a 60-57 lead with 0:48 remaining.

Blevins' game-tying 3-pointer was off the mark with 0:32 remaining.

Following a foul, Smallwood missed the front end of a one-and-one as Blevins grabbed the rebound with 0:28 remaining.

Blevins raced into the front court, but Michael Judy came away with a steal with 0:22 remaining and Smallwood made 3-of-4 attempts from the foul line to ice the game for the Crusaders.

Man, who shot 56.5 percent in the first half, made just 8-of-23 attempts in the second half and was 0-for-11 from 3-point range. The Hillbillies also turned the ball over nine times in the second half.

“Our pressure picked up in the second half, and when you get teams up and down like that, the shots aren’t the same,” Arvon said. “This game could have gone the other way if Blevins hits a couple more shots, he’s capable of hitting.”

Wilson and Smallwood combined for 38 points on 11-of-24 shooting from the field.

“We held Smallwood to four points in the first half and he ended with 18,” Blevins said. “It’s hard to guard guys like that, who are so explosive, can get where they want, finish, dump or kick it out to a wing.”

Blevins finished with 20 to lead Man. Martin added 18 and Harless 11.

At Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center

Class A Quarterfinals

7) Greater Beckley Christian 63, 2) Man 57

Greater Beckley Christian (6-20)

Kendrick Wilson 7-14 4-6 20, Kaden Smallwood 4-10 8-12 18, Sean-David Kadjo 4-7 0-0 9, Michael Judy 2-7 0-0 5, John Rose 3-10 4-4 11, Braylon Arvon 0-0 0-0 0, Aaron Hall 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-49 16-22 63.

Man (22-3)

Jeremiah Harless 5-7 1-2 11, Aden Martin 7-13 2-4 18, Trey Brown 1-7 2-2 5, Jordan Adams 1-2 1-1 3, Caleb Blevins 7-19 4-4 20, James Scites 0-1 0-0 0, Jacob Walls 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-50 10-13 57.

Greater Beckley 9 17 18 19- 63

Man 14 24 8 11- 57

3-point field goals- Greater Beckley 7-23 (Wilson 2-6, Smallwood 2-6, Kadjo 1-3, Judy 1-5, Rose 1-3), Man 5-23 (Martin 2-4, Brown 1-7, Blevin 2-12). Rebounds- Greater Beckley 33 (Smallwood 7, Kadjo 7), Man 30 (Blevins 11). Assists- Greater Beckley 12 (Smallwood 8), Man 14 (Brown 5). Total fouls- Greater Beckley 17, Man 16. Fouled out- Harless, Adams. Techincals- None.



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