Man coach Harvey Arms talks to his team during a timeout in Thursday’s state tourney game with Charleston Catholic. It was Man’s first state tournament appearance since 2005. Man lost 62-57 to the Irish. (Photo | Michael Browning)
CHARLESTON — It was a game of survival.
And in the end it was Charleston Catholic which was the survivor.
The seventh-seeded Man High School boys’ basketball team gave the No. 2 Irish all they wanted but fell just short as Catholic prevailed 62-57 on Thursday afternoon in the Class A state quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center.
With Logan’s 63-50 loss to Martinsburg on Wednesday night in the first round of the Class AAA state tourney, Logan County’s high school basketball season has officially come to a close.
But the Hillbillies, playing in their first state tournament since 2005, nearly advanced to Friday’s semifinals.
However, a slow start, ice-cold shooting for most of the game and Charleston Catholic’s free throws ended up being the difference.
Man closed out its season at 14-12, while Charleston Catholic, which held on to beat Man a couple of weeks ago, 62-56, in the Class A sectional final on its home floor, improved to 22-3 and moved on to Friday’s semifinals against Weirton Madonna at 11:15 a.m.
Charleston Catholic, making its eighth straight trip to the state tournament, led Man by as many as 16 points in the first half but had to hold on for dear life in the game’s final minutes.
The Billies cut the deficit to just two points late in the fourth quarter but the Irish were able to pull it out. Charleston Catholic was the team which beat Man in its last state tourney appearance in ‘05 by a 87-60 score.
It was a lot different this time.
It was no 27-point blowout.
Man coach Harvey Arms said it just wasn’t meant to be.
“It was a pretty tough game and we played pretty well overall,” Arms said. “We got behind in the first half but put up a pretty valiant effort in the second half trying to make a comeback. I thought we played pretty well but in the end we just fouled too much.”
Charleston Catholic was able to capitalize on Man’s fouls and got itself in the double bonus in the third quarter.
For the rest of the game it seemed like the Irish were milking down the clock and standing on the free throw line as the Billies frantically attempted their comeback.
Charleston Catholic, though, only made 21-for-36 foul shots for a miserable 58.3 percent and that helped the Billies stay close. In the fourth quarter, the Irish were 13-for-20 from the line, making enough of them to keep Man at bay.
“They are never all good fouls but most of them were the ones that we had to have because we needed to try and get the possession back,” Arms said.
For the game, Man was only 34-for-67 shooting for 34.3 percent. The Irish weren’t much better as Catholic connected on 19-for-55 field goals for a woeful 34.5 percent.
Man was 8-for-14 from the free throw line and only 3-for-22 from 3-point land.
The Billies were led by senior guard Jordan Simpson, who poured in a game-high 29 points and also pulled down 13 points for a double-double. He added an assist, four steals and three 3-pointers.
Simpson gave Man a huge boost at the end of three quarters when he launched a 40-foot shot from near half-court range and hit nothing but the bottom of the net to pull the Billies to within 42-37.
Man then cut it to 44-41 at the 5:32 mark of the third quarter with Austin Moore’s 12-footer.
Charleston Catholic then went on a 9-2 run to expand the lead to 53-43 with three minutes to go.
The game wasn’t over, though, as Man refused to quit.
Simpson scored on a drive to the lane and drilled a 3 to make it 53-48 with 2:38 left.
Simpson was later hacked on a 3-point attempt and calmly netted all three of his free throws to pull the Billies within 56-51 with 1:20 to go in the game.
Then it was Simpson’s steal and layup which made it 56-53 with 1:06 left, getting a loud roar from the Man cheering section.
Simpson then followed Seth Hainer’s missed 3-point shot from the corner for a putback to trim the Irish lead to only 57-55 with 53 seconds left.
That was as close as Man would get, however.
Catholic added two free throws to make it 59-55 and Keaghan Richie split from the line with 14.2 seconds left to make it a five-point game at 60-55.
Man still had one chance with Josh Booth dropping in a putback with 3.8 ticks to go, trimming the deficit to 60-57.
Charleston Catholic’s Nick George, who led the Irish with 19 points and 17 rebounds, was then fouled with 2.8 seconds to go and hit both free throws to seal the win.
The Irish also got 13 points from Haston Gerencir and 10 points and 10 boards from Ritchie. Garret McCarty added nine points and David Godwin five, while Alex Casingal, Andy Hoyer and Zack Casto all had two points.
Booth finished with 10 points and four rebounds for Man.
Moore had six, Cayce Mullins five and Kaleb Spurlock four. Hainer, who played on Logan High School’s 2010 Class AAA state championship team before transferring back home to Man, was held to just three points. Hainer was only 1-for-11 from the field, including 0-for-7 from 3-point territory. He also had four assists and two steals.
Thursday’s game was the final prep contest for Hainer, Simpson and Man’s other senior players — Coty Crum, Shane Browning, Booth and Spurlock.
“When the shots aren’t falling I get down on myself easy,” Hainer said. “Catholic shut me down pretty bad. This is a big stage. This is my first time I have ever played in the state tournament. I’ve been here before but I didn’t play. I cheered Noah (Cottrill) on.”
Simpson said the Billies kept playing hard even when they trailed by double digits in the first half.
“We never thought that we were out of the ballgame,” he said. “We’re an offense oriented team and we can put up points in a hurry. We never thought that it was completely over with. In the end we made a run at it.”
But at the beginning of the game Man fell behind 15-6 in the first quarter after taking early leads of 2-0 and 4-2. It was 18-11 Irish at the end of one.
Charleston Catholic then went on a 10-1 run to start the second period, taking its largest lead of the afternoon at 28-12.
The Billies countered with a 7-2 run, powered by a 3-pointer by Simpson, to cut the Irish lead to 30-19 with 24 seconds left in the first half.
Simpson then drove to the lane for a bucket with two seconds remaining to make it 32-21 at the intermission.
The Billies then chipped away in the third quarter, outscoring the Irish 16-10 to pull to within 42-37 after three.
But in the end Charleston Catholic was able to hold on.
“I thought that Man came out with a lot of energy and a lot of heart,” Irish coach Bill McClanahan said. “I thought that we did what we needed to do in the first half. I thought that we executed a little bit better and played smarter in the first half than we did in the sectional game and it gave us a little cushion. In the second half, they knocked us back on our heels. We staggered a little bit, but fortunately for us, we were able to finish with some free throws and some rebounds. We were able to do the little things that it takes to win a close ballgame. We need to ramp it up a little bit for tomorrow.”
Catholic outrebounded Man 47-42 for the game.
Booth said George was tough to defend. George got to the free throw line often and made 9-of-13 of his charity tosses.
“When he got around you you couldn’t do much about it,” Booth said.
Booth and George battled all day under the hoop.
“He’s a big kid and he’s hard to box out,” George said, when asked about Booth, who goes 6-4 and weighs 308 pounds.
Man actually outscored Catholic in the paint, 38-28.
The Billies were happy to make it back to the state tournament.
After a 3-4 start to the season, Man began to catch fire, eventually getting a late season 78-72 win over Class AA Mingo Central. The Billies won their sectional opener over Van, 94-38 before falling to Charleston Catholic in the finals. Man then secured a trip to Charleston with a resounding 64-45 victory over Huntington St. Joe in the Class A regional championship game.
“That was our goal at the beginning of the year,” Simpson said when asked about breaking into the state tourney field. “We thought that we had a pretty good chance at going last year but we slipped up a little bit. We knew that we had an even better chance this year of going. A couple of things went our way and we got here. We thought that we had a chance today but it didn’t work out.”