CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It took Man some time to find its footing, but when it did, the Hillbillies showed why they’re the top seed in the Class A state tournament.
MHS outscored No. 8 seed Tucker County 32-7 in the third quarter, turning a competitive contest into a 74-34 victory in a quarterfinal at the Charleston Coliseum.
“We executed very well in the second half,” Man coach T.J. Blevins said. “I didn’t like too much how we played in the first half. I got into them pretty hard in the locker room and challenged them pretty good. What we saw in the third quarter is what we’re used to seeing every night.”
While the Hillbillies (14-2) were strong defensively throughout, they sputtered offensively for a good portion of the first two quarters. But Man to begin hit its stride over the final few minutes of the first half, and turned what was a four-point lead with less than six minutes to play in the half into a 32-20 advantage at the break.
Man’s Austin Ball, who led all players with 27 points and 13 rebounds, threw down a dunk off a steal late in the half to reach 1,000 points for his career.
“I didn’t know it was my 1,000th point, but when I got the breakaway, I was like I’m going to slam this and put on a show,” Ball said. “Coming into the third quarter with the spark under me, I did well from there.”
While the Mountain Lions (12-6) had difficulty scoring all game, they hung around thanks to their ability to defend and offensive rebound.
Sixteen of Tucker’s 26 offensive rebounds came in the first half, but 6-of-29 shooting meant the Mountain Lions were unable to surpass 10 points in either quarter.
“The first half, we got pretty much what we wanted offensively,” Tucker coach Daniel Helmick said. “All year, we’ve had a hard time making shots. In the second half, I don’t know if we played as hard as we did in the first half. It kind of snow balled on us.”
After the Mountain Lions’ Trenton Wilfong made 1-of-2 free throws 13 seconds into the second half, MHS got 14 straight points from point guard Peyton Adams or Ball as part of a 22-0 run that put the game out of reach. Even after the Mountain Lions first field goal of the quarter — a Zach Colebank jumper at the 2:46 mark — Ball added six more points in the quarter to give him 17 in the frame.
“The first three or four minutes of the second half, we came out flat and didn’t make shots,” Helmick said. “It was disappointing.”
Ball made 11-of-20 shots and all five of his free throws, while adding three blocks and three steals.
“He turned it up like we know that he can,” Blevins said.
Adams finished with 11 points, six assists and six steals, while Christian Toler scored 10 of his 15 points after halftime. Jackson Tackett added 10 points and five boards in the victory.
Colebank had 16 points and eight boards, while freshman Ashton Lycliter contributed 10 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in the third quarter. Outside of that duo, the Mountain Lions made 1-of-34 field goal attempts.
Tucker finished with a 53-45 rebounding advantage, but committed 27 turnovers. The Hillbillies held a 27-25 rebounding edge after halftime.
“One thing I can’t handle as a coach is getting out-rebounded when we have the length, size and athleticism to rebound,” Blevins said. “At halftime, I’m trying to go through a wall in the locker room to get these guys to wake up.”
The Hillbillies face No. 4 Webster County in Thursday’s semifinal.