Huntington High fights off Hurricane
ONA — Huntington High and Hurricane boys basketball teams had some great postseason matchups in the past five years with plenty on the line.
While a loss wouldn’t end either team’s season Friday evening, it would’ve never been known from the level of effort on the court. The teams scrapped throughout the game before top-seeded Huntington High scored a couple of baskets late and fended off a Hurricane comeback in a 63-57 win for the Highlanders.
“It seems like it’s always like this against Hurricane,” Huntington High coach Ron Hess said. “We had some turnovers at times and put them on the line, but we were able to keep our composure late. I’m proud of the kids for that.”
Huntington High will host Parkersburg in the Class AAA, Region IV co-final at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Hurricane will travel to Parkersburg South in the other Class AAA, Region IV cofinal at the same time. Parkersburg South defeated Parkersburg, 52-50, on Friday.
One of the key plays for Huntington High was with less than two minutes left and the Highlanders clinging to a three-point lead. Mikal Dawson drove to the basket and two defenders came up, but he was able to get a no-look pass off to Bryce Damous for a layup that pushed the lead to five.
“They hit a couple of shots and Dawson, he’s just a man,” Hurricane coach Lance Sutherland said. “We
tried to contain him and make sure that, if we did, we didn’t let anyone else get hot. Our defense worked, but they made a couple plays. It was close the whole game.”
With much of Hurricane’s defensive focus on Dawson, Damous was able to find openings around the rim and produced 19 points to lead the Highlanders.
“Bryce has to do that because Mike is going to draw attention, so he’s where he needs to be — around the rim for easy put-backs and easy feeds from Mikal,” Hess said. “He’s starting to get a real good feel for that within our offense.”
Dawson scored 17 and the Highlanders got a big boost from Tajhan Blackwell with 12 points off the bench.
“Tajhan, I think he’s finally getting his confidence and into the rhythm of what we’re really trying to do,” Hess said. “He really played very well for us off the bench — hit some big shots for us and played good defense.”
Nick Muto finished with 20 points, including 13 in the second half to help the Redskins stay close. Austin Dearing also hit double-figures with 16.
“Any time they got an open look they hit it tonight,” Hess said. “You’ve got to give it to Hurricane and coach Sutherland. They played well.”
The contrast in the game was the physicality of Hurricane against the athleticism of Huntington High and it produced some moments that made for an electric atmosphere at Cabell Midland High School on Friday night.
After Huntington High used its athleticism and 11 first-quarter points from Damous to jump to an 18-10 lead, the Redskins used that physicality on defense to force the Highlanders into turnovers in the second half, which helped them get back into the game.
Dearing capped a second quarter when scored seven by hitting a jump shot at the halftime buzzer that cut the Huntington High lead to 30-28. From there, it stayed within a two-possession game throughout until the end as the Highlanders surged ahead.
That final run came with the Highlanders using athleticism against the Hurricane defense.
“We have some size, but they are very athletic and it created an athleticism problem for us — especially late when they made their run,” Sutherland said.
Both teams will be facing familiar opponents Tuesday night.
Hurricane will make its second trip to Parkersburg South after falling to the Patriots, 71-66, on Feb. 7. The Highlanders will host Parkersburg after going on the road to beat the Big Reds, 74-47, in the season opener.
HURRICANE 12 16 17 12 — 57: Nicely 9, N. Muto 20, Stover 4, Dearing 16, J. Muto 8.
HUNTINGTON HIGH 18 12 20 13 — 63: Hayes 6, Damous 19, Blackwell 12, Dawson 17, Smith 8, Wright 1.