CHARLESTON, W.Va. – No. 1 Capital erased a six-point fourth quarter deficit and survived a flurry of final minute dramatics to beat defending state champion Morgantown 52-50 on Friday night, advancing into Saturday’s Class AAA title game.
The No. 4 Mohigans (20-7) controlled the tempo and pace overall, but Capital ultimately prevailed with clutch shooting and a couple of critical, forced turnovers down the stretch.
“Great job by Morgantown tonight, they came in with a great game plan,” said Capital coach Matt Greene. “They never really let us get going, as far our pressure affecting them.
“We like to play a lot out of our defense to create our offense,” Greene said. “That prevented us from getting the score going. We (prefer) to be in the 70s and 80s. Our guys did a great job of not quitting and they grinded it out. They really sold-out down the stretch.”
The game’s key swing came with under 30 seconds left as Capital’s Leondre Rogers got to the rim and completed a layup-and-one, cutting Morgantown’s lead to 50-49 and 26.7 seconds remaining.
“I can’t even explain it,” Rogers said. “It’s a good feeling. We just stuck through it and me and my teammates grinded it out. We never once looked back – it was the next play, the next play. And we ended up on top.”
On the ensuing Morgantown inbounds, Capital’s Jabbar Thompson stole the ball and turned it into a quick layup, giving the Cougars a 51-50 advantage with 21 seconds left sending the Capital crowd into a frenzy.
Those were Thompson’s only points in nine minutes of action. He came into Friday’s game averaging six points per contest.
“Coach has always told me to stay ready and it’s going to be my time,” Thompson said. “And that was the play.”
After a Morgantown timeout, Solomon’s potential go-ahead bucket on the other end was short for the Mohigans. Rogers followed with by hitting one of two free throws, giving Capital the 52-50 lead and three seconds left.
Hanson had a half-court shot at the buzzer for Morgantown that banked just off the rim as the Cougars held on.
Capital (23-4) raced out to an early 7-2 lead, but back-to-back 3s from Morgantown’s Torin Hanson later tied the game at 16-16 with 5:25 to go in the second. Capital’s KJ Figures hit a shot at the second quarter buzzer, putting the Cougars up 29-24 at the half.
Morgantown chipped away in the third and eventually took a 37-36 lead into the fourth. Another Hanson 3 for the Mohigans extended that lead out to 42-36 with 7:27 to go. Capital answered with a 5-0 run to cut its deficit to one.
A Nicky Solomon jumper gave the Mohigans the 48-44 lead with 1:27 remaining.
“It was a heck of a battle,” said Morgantown coach Dave Tallman. “I’m proud of the battle we were able to give them tonight. I think everyone was writing us off pretty hard. I think that shows what kind of heart and determination my guys have.
“We had what we wanted,” Tallman said. “We had every opportunity to win the game – they made plays and we didn’t down the stretch, it’s as simple as that.”
The Mohigans shot 49 percent overall in the loss, but struggled from the free throw line, only 9 of 22 attempts.
Rogers led Capital with 18 points in the win and Anthony Pittman contributed 13 points. Hanson scored 18 points for Morgantown and Solomon added 17 points in the loss.
Capital will face either University or Huntington Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. for the Class AAA championship.
MetroNews will have live video streaming of all three title games Saturday at the MetroNews Channel of WVMetroNews.com.