CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Perhaps Charleston Catholic senior guard Zion Suddeth, tasked with guarding Poca’s Isaac McKneely, said it best.
“They don’t give Division I offers to everybody. There’s a reason he’s a Division I basketball player,” Suddeth said of McKneely.
McKneely’s three-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining lifted the second-seeded Dots to a 42-40 victory over the No. 3 Irish in one of the more thrilling finishes in state tournament history.
“That was a crazy moment,” McKneely said. “Credit to Catholic. They played a hell of a game. We all made plays down the stretch and that’s why I love my guys.”
McKneely, a junior and Virginia commit, made a three-pointer with 23 seconds to play that put the Dots (13-4) in front 39-38, before Aiden Satterfield drove to the basket and scored to give the Irish (12-3) a one-point lead.
The Dots got the ball out quickly and inbounded to McKneely, who dribbled six times and pro hopped on the perimeter before rising and connecting from beyond the arc.
“We were resilient like we’ve been the whole year,” Poca coach Allen Osborne said.
Satterfield’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer missed the mark, allowing Poca to prevail.
“Players win games. Coaches lose them,” Irish coach Hunter Moles said. “That one’s on me. I didn’t put ourselves in the best situation at the end of the game. No excuses. I wasn’t good enough.”
Were it not for an earlier fourth-quarter surge, Poca would have never been in position to win.
The Irish scored the first seven points of the period to turn a three-point lead into their biggest advantage at 36-26 with 5:30 remaining.
McKneely rattled off the next five points, and a key sequence occurred with Poca still trailing by five when Kambel Meeks made a triple on a second-chance opportunity to close the Dots’ deficit to two with 1 minute remaining.
“Coach has always us ready. We never give up at Poca,” McKneely said. “We fight until the buzzer and things started clicking at the end.”
The Irish missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with both 50 and 32 seconds left, leaving them 0 of 4 on free throws in the quarter and 0 for 6 for the game.
A low-scoring first half saw McKneely score 11 points — nearly half of the 26 between the two teams combined.
CCHS made just 4-of-24 field-goal attempts over the first two quarters, including 1 of 12 in the second period.
The Irish were held to two points — a Satterfield transition layup 49 seconds before halftime — in the second quarter.
But the Dots were held to seven field goals and had six of the game’s eight turnovers, preventing them from building a larger lead.
“They really well played well defensively and kept us from running our offense,” Osborne said. “They defend us as well as anybody.”
Catholic never showed any sign of discouragement, pulling to within three in the first minute of the second half after J.P. McCutcheon’s only basket and a three from Anthony Minardi.
The Irish would make five more threes in the quarter — the first four from Satterfield and another from Minardi that broke a 26-all tie just before the time expired.
“I hate that I wasn’t good enough in the late game to get us to tomorrow because we played good enough to get there,” Moles said.
McKneely scored 25 points on 7-of-17 shooting, but Suddeth helped force him into eight of the game’s 18 turnovers.
“I tried to foul him at the end of the game,” Suddeth said. “We had five (team) fouls, but I didn’t get the foul. He hit a tough shot. You can’t change it. It’s hard to get too close up on him because he jumped so high. “
Ethan Payne added nine points and five rebounds.
Satterfield scored 22 and added eight boards to lead the Irish. Minardi scored nine, while Suddeth had five points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“It hurts a lot, but it is what it is,” Satterfield said. “You can only keep going forward from it. I’m thankful I was able to play in a game like that and represent Charleston Catholic.”