CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Huntington will play for a third state championship in the last four seasons on Saturday after beating University 73-65 in Friday’s semifinal.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Huntington coach Ron Hess. “We played them before here and it was a close game, down to the wire. We thought it would be the same thing tonight. In the second half we went strictly to our 2-3 (defense) and I thought it made a big difference in this game. They weren’t making their shots and they weren’t getting to the basket like they were.”
No. 3 Huntington (21-5) led 35-31 at the break and extended its lead out to nine early in the third quarter. A 9-0 University run, though, tied the game at 42-42 with 2:10 to go in the third.
Later, a 9-0 Huntington run in the fourth put the Highlanders’ lead back up to 11, 58-47, with 3:28 remaining.
The Highlanders were led by Mikal Dawson’s 26 points. Dawson scored those points in just 19 minutes of play, missing significant time in the second half.
“We have a lot of trust in each other and we’re building a good chemistry,” said Huntington’s Grant Subik. “We need (Mikal Dawson), but without him we felt like we could manage until he came back. When he came back, I felt like that put the game away for us.”
Geoff Hamperian and Ethan Ridgeway led University (24-3) with 14 points apiece in the loss.
“I thought we played a pretty good game today, Huntington just played better,” said University coach Joe Schmidle. “Hats off to them. They shot 58 percent from the floor, 10 of 19 from 3 and 19 of 23 from the foul line. You’re not going to win when somebody is shooting like that.”
It’s the fourth straight trip to the Class AAA title game for Huntington. The Highlanders will face No. 1 Capital at 7:15 p.m.
The Highlanders fell twice to Capital in the regular season — 70-62 and 70-46.
“I feel like we can take them this time,” Mikal Dawson said. “I don’t think anyone likes getting beat twice by the same team. Third time’s the charm.”
MetroNews will have live video streaming of all three title games Saturday at the MetroNews Channel of WVMetroNews.com.