CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s hard to identify Capital’s best player on a game-by-game basis.
For Cougars’ coach Matt Greene, that’s just fine.
Greene considers his team’s depth its best asset, and in Tuesday night’s Class AAA Region III co-final, Capital had it on full display in a 77-65 victory against Greenbrier East.
Seven Cougars scored at least seven points and Capital (20-5) used a 16-0 run over a fewer than four-minute span in the second quarter to seize control. With the win, Capital claimed the No. 4 seed at the state tournament and will face No. 5 Morgantown on March 14 at 11:15 a.m.
“We had two starters get two early fouls. Guys had to come in and step up and they did just like they have all year,” Greene said. “Our strength is our depth and it usually gives us an advantage.”
Behind six first-quarter points from Cory Beswick and five more from Bailee Coles, the Spartans (12-12) held a 16-14 lead after one period.
Coles started the second quarter scoring with a jumper to up Greenbrier East’s lead to four, before Capital responded with the decisive 16-0 run.
Ethan Kent, who led the Cougars with 18 points, hit a 3-pointer and a leaner to give his team the lead for good, before Kerion Martin scored inside, forcing Spartans’ coach Bimbo Coles to call timeout with his team trailing 21-18 at the 6:02 mark of the second quarter.
The break in action did little to slow down Capital, which got a pair of free throws from David Taylor to go up five, before Kent and Martin combined to score seven straight points to make it 30-18 with 3:53 to play in the half.
“I’m a student of the game and watch closely and the game wasn’t called the same way in the second quarter,” coach Coles said. “That allowed them to get the lead. I don’t want to blame the officials, but I thought that really hurt us in the second quarter.”
Beswick made a 3 to cut his team’s deficit to 30-23, but Capital’s bench scored nine points over the remainder of the half, including a triple from Karrington Hill just before the buzzer to send the Cougars into the locker room with a 39-25 lead.
Beswick and Coles combined for 18 points at the break, while Kent had a team-high nine. The Cougars also forced 10 first-half turnovers, committed only six and held a 20-13 rebounding advantage.
“Our pressure usually has an effect even if it doesn’t look like it,” Greene said. “In the second quarter, we went to a zone and switched defenses and it helped us.”
A 3 by Covante Duncan with 4:45 left in the third quarter gave the Cougars their biggest lead of the game to that point at 49-32. The Spartans cut it to 53-40 on a Justin Davis stickback, only to see K.J. Figures beat the third-quarter buzzer with a jumper to put Capital up 15.
Beswick scored the first four points of the fourth quarter on consecutive layups to bring Greenbrier East to within 11, and a layup by Davis with 5:05 left had the Spartans trailing 58-48.
But Capital never let the Spartans get the deficit to single digits, and made 11-of-13 free throws over the final 3:20 of regulation to help seal the victory.
“Our kids kept fighting, but they shot the ball better than I thought they’d shoot it,” coach Coles said. “They made open shots and free throws when they really needed to and credit them, because that’s the sign of a good team.”
Jared Fannin scored 13 points off the bench, while Figures added 10 to give CHS a third double figure scorer.
Martin contributed nine points in the win, Taylor scored eight and Duncan and Zimari Helm added seven apiece.
Taylor and Fannin also each grabbed eight rebounds to help Capital win the battle on the glass, 37-30.
“We’ve battled all year and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time,” Greene said.
Beswick’s 23 points led all players, while Coles added 17 in defeat. Davis had 10 points and nine boards in the loss.
The Spartans finished with 19 turnovers, including at least four in every quarter.