CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During his decorated career at West Virginia from 2009-2012, forward Kevin Jones made a habit of causing problems for opponents with jump hooks in the paint.
Although he’s a decade removed from donning the Mountaineer uniform, Jones showed Wednesday night his touch on that patented hook shot hasn’t gone by the wayside.
With Best Virginia trailing Bucketneers 62-61 and a target score of 63 during the Elam Ending, Jones took a feed from Jermaine Haley and put home a jump hook over the outstretched arms of Desonta Bradford, lifting Best Virginia to a 63-62 victory in the West Virginia Region final at the Charleston Coliseum.
Here is the game-winning shot by Kevin Jones in Best Virginia’s 63-62 win over the Bucketneers in the TBT West Virginia regional final.@TonyCaridi on the MetroNews broadcast call.
(Sound up!) pic.twitter.com/OGFgg6PAix
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 28, 2022
“I was falling down, so I was hoping I had enough on it to get it to the rim or get a foul called,” Jones said. “When I saw it go in, something came over me — joy and relief. Those Elam Endings are no joke and they can last forever.”
Jones’ basket put an end to a frenzied finish that saw the teams knotted at 55 when the contest went to the Elam Ending.
To start the Elam Ending, top seed Best Virginia got 1-of-2 free throws from Jones, who made a shot from close range on the team’s next possession to make it 58-55. After No. 2 Bucketneers turned the ball over a second straight trip, Jamel Morris’ a 3-pointer put BV up by six and on the brink of advancing.
“You’re going to have some miscommunications and lapses in the back to back like that, but we were locked in to begin the Elam Ending, and that’s what won us the game,” Long said.
However, things got dicey for Best Virginia from that point forward.
Morris missed three consecutive jump shots with a chance to end the game, and after two T.J. Cromer free throws provided Bucketneers with its first points of the Elam Ending, the visitors drew to within one on Bradford’s sixth and final triple — this one well contested by Jones and from 5-plus feet beyond the arc.
“I hought I played great defense and he swished it,” Jones said. “It was definitely discouraging, but we had another possession and we were able to fight through that.”
Haley’s turnover on the ensuing possession gave possession back to Bucketneers with a chance to win. Needing a 3 to do so, Bradford attempted one, but it missed the mark, leading to Isaac Banks’ follow-up that put the Bucketneers up 62-61 for their first lead in the Elam Ending.
“It was weird, because I’m like, ‘OK, at least they didn’t get a three,’” Jones said.
A squad largely comprised of former East Tenessee State players never got the ball back as Jones ended it with the hook shot to secure Best Virginia’s regional title and a spot among The Basketball Tournament’s final 8 in Dayton.
Best Virginia will next face Red Scare at 9 p.m. Friday at University of Dayton Arena.
“We have a chance to do something special,” Best Virginia guard Juwan Staten said.
With both teams playing on consecutive nights and for the third time in four days, Best Virginia got off to the better start. Nine BV players scored in the opening quarter, with seven making one field goal as the team made 7-of-10 field-goal attempts, 4-of-5 3s and 4-of-4 free throws to build a 22-13 lead.
The advantage grew to 10 at 28-18 following a John Flowers basket, before Bradford scored five unanswered points to cut his team’s deficit in half.
Bucketneers eventually pulled to within 30-26 late in the opening half, before Jaysean Paige’s triple with 4 seconds left allowed Best Virginia to lead by seven at the break.
Less than 3 minutes into the second half, however, Bucketneers had completely erased its deficit and 3s from Bradford and Banks with a Bo Hudges dunk in between put Best Virginia behind, 34-33.
Neither team led by four for the remainder of the third, though after Bucketneers led 43-39, Morris and Devin Ebanks combined for seven straight points and Best Virginia settled for a 46-45 lead entering the fourth.
Cromer tied the game at 48 with a 3, then answered a Jones triple with another trey to knot the game at 51.
Haley scored Best Virginia’s next four points ahead of the Elam Ending.
(Best Virginia postgame press conference)
“It’s tough when you have this amount of games in such a short amount of time,” Jones said. “Coaches have done a great job not overworking us, but also making sure we stay fresh. Everybody locked in and paid attention to details. We had a couple lapses, but ultimately we strapped up when we needed to and got the win.”
Jones and Morris led a balanced Best Virginia attack with 10 points apiece. Paige added eight, all of which he scored in the first half, while Teyvon Myers scored seven. Ebanks and Staten added six apiece.
After being out-rebounded in each of its first two TBT games, Best Virginia grabbed 33 boards to Bucketneers’ 27. Paige led all players with 10 rebounds.
Bradford’s 22 points led all players, while Cromer scored 16. The duo was responsible for 10 of its team’s 12 triples.
“Bradford is good. There’s no other way to put it,” Long said. “The horns stuff they do is really tricky. They just play hard. We knew the Bucketneers were going to show up.”
Banks added 11 points in defeat, but outside of the aforementioned trio, the rest of Bucketneers combined to shoot 6 for 25.
Best Virginia shot 54 percent (24 of 44) and made half of its 16 3-pointers, but finished with 19 turnovers to Bucketneers’ nine.
“They should be proud of themselves,” Long said. “Regardless of whether we’re West Virginia University or Best Virginia, we’re representing the Mountaineers now and it is special. We have an opportunity to win something for the Mountaineers and it is cool.“