South Charleston players, including Romeo Dunham (1) and E.J. Phillips (22), listen to coach Vic Herbert during a late timeout against Wheeling Park.
All in all, it was a positive end to the regular season for South Charleston.
E.J. Phillips shrugged off a bout of tonsilitis to produce yet another double-double Saturday afternoon as the Black Eagles outlasted Wheeling Park 68-64 at the SC Community Center. Each team finished the regular season 13-8.
The game was tied at 62 inside the two-minute mark, but SC went 6 of 12 at the foul line to close it out, three times grabbing its own missed free throws to maintain possession. The Patriots also went one and done on three of their final four possessions, with SC swallowing up the rebound.
Besides Phillips (16 points, 16 rebounds), the Black Eagles also got double-figure scoring efforts from Romeo Dunham (14 points), Shazaun Cunningham (11) and C.J. Allison (11).
“Multiple times,’’ said Park coach Michael Jebbia, “there were missed shots, whether it was a free throw or a missed shot inside, and we just couldn’t corral the rebound. They’re a physical team, and Phillips and Allison really rebound the ball well.’’
The Patriots, without a senior on the roster, shot out to a 12-2 lead, but SC caught up at 30-all at halftime. The Black Eagles built advantages as large as nine points at 50-41, only to see Park’s duo of Alex Vargo (23 points) and Keondre’ King (22 points) spark a comeback.
The telling stats were a 39-32 edge in rebounds for SC, and 17 turnovers by Park compared to nine for SC. The Black Eagles had 14 steals, six of them by junior guard Corey Lanier, a surprise starter who played about half the game.
“That first four minutes, we couldn’t guard a kindergarten team,’’ said SC coach Vic Herbert. “Then after that, I was proud of them and the way they guarded. They really got after it. We rebounded the ball well, and were pretty patient on offense. We worked for what we got. Overall, it was a good effort, a good game.’’
It’s been a season of big highs and big lows for South Charleston, which has beaten top-10 teams Capital and Parkersburg, but also lost 25-plus-point games to Huntington, Woodrow Wilson and University.
“I was proud of a lot of things,’’ Herbert said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who have bought into what we’re trying to do and have been zero trouble all year long. Romeo Dunham comes to mind — not been a lick of trouble. A few guys have had some bumps in the road, but for the most part the guys have been really, really positive and played well and been good citizens. You’re going to have a few things that go on, but it’s been pretty good for the most part.’’
Herbert wasn’t even sure if the ailing Phillips — the team’s lone senior who averages 25 points and 14 rebounds — would be able to play until a couple of minutes before tipoff. Phillips is scheduled for surgery after the season ends.
“We stayed in a zone,’’ Jebbia said, “because I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to guard Phillips in man, so we tried to pay close attention to him in a zone. Give our guys credit — we got down nine there, and fought back.
“We had a pretty good start, but obviously we knew that wasn’t going to last. South Charleston’s going to come on strong, but we had a good start in terms of coming down here at 8 in the morning and getting off a bus and playing. It was a good game. Vargo and King have scored pretty well for us. I thought the difference was they got some loose balls, some offensive rebounds and that gave them more possessions late.’’
Travis Zimmerman came off the bench to score eight points and collar 11 rebounds for Park.
Herbert hopes his team’s solid effort carries over into Wednesday’s sectional showdown at No. 3 George Washington (17-3).
“That’s what worries you about playing a game that doesn’t really mean anything,’’ he said. “Because you worry about losing a game like that and going into [the sectional] with a lack of momentum. But in turn, you don’t want to go a whole week without playing a game. So it was a good game for us to play. We wound up 13-8 as young as we were, and you’ve got to be happy with that.’’