South gets defensive in victory
SOUTH CHARLESTON — Allstar basketball games are seldom renowned for their defense, but that’s what turned the tide Friday evening for the South.
E.J. Phillips and Braeden McGrew led a second-half charge as their South squad stormed back for a 107-103 victory in the North-South Classic at the South Charleston Community Center.
The South, which trailed by 23 points in the first half, started to whittle away at that deficit by utilizing strong defense. The North finished with 30 turnovers, 18 of those South steals.
It allowed the South to make up for last year’s 108-105 loss when the North’s Jarrod West (Notre Dame) hit a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer. The South now leads the series 29-7 since its resumption in 1983.
South Charleston’s Phillips was voted as the South’s MVP, finishing with 16 points on 8 of 13 shooting, five rebounds and a team-high four steals.
“Coach preaches defense,″ Phillips said, “and the guys played real good defense. We played better on-ball defense, got a couple steals and that just led to easy layups and easy baskets in transition, and that brought us back.″
The North, led by game MVP Jude Akabueze (North Marion) — a 6-foot-9, 245-pound center who ended with 27 points, 16 rebounds, four steals and four dunks — pushed its lead to 50-27 late in the first half on a 3-pointer by Musselman’s Jake Stephens, but the South was able to shave it back to a manageable 52-42 at the half.
The advantage was still at 10 with
about 6:30 remaining, and that’s when the South really started to rally, forcing consecutive turnovers on several occasions.
The South’s Spencer Dean (Valley Fayette) took and made his only shot, a 3-pointer from the right corner, to knot the game 89-89 with 4:50 left. It marked the first time the South did not trail.
Two other noteworthy moments for the South came when Jeremy Dillon (Mingo Central) hustled to save the ball from going out of bounds on the offensive end and it wound up in the hands of Tyler May (Tug Valley), who drained a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 94-93 lead with 3:25 to go. Then, Drew Williamson (Chapmanville) gave the South the lead for good with a fast-break layup and a 96-95 edge with three minutes remaining.
Phillips then took a steal from McGrew and hit a layup and McGrew knocked down a pullup jumper for a 100-95 South lead. McGrew hit all four of his free throws in the final 47 seconds to protect the lead.
“I think we started playing better offense and passing it around more,″ McGrew said of the South’s comeback. The West Virginia Wesleyan recruit also praised the energy of South teammate Jonathan Blankenship (Tug Valley).
“Jon helped us a lot on defense, too,″ McGrew said. “He helps with that intensity, and we all kind of followed him and after that, I think it was over.
“I think it’s great to end up on a good note. It makes you feel good, a very blessed feeling to come and have this opportunity.″
Phillips’ 16 points led the South, but four of his teammates joined him in double-figure scoring. Dillon had 15 points and eight rebounds, Williamson 14 points and seven rebounds, Justin Phillips (George Washington) added 13 points and McGrew 12 points, four assists and three steals.
Akabueze, who is headed to UAB in Conference USA, was a pillar of strength for the shorthanded North, hitting 12 of 19 shots. Three players listed on the North roster did not show, including state player of the year Taevon Horton of Fairmont Senior, who is walking on at WVU.
“The first half was good for me,″ Akabueze said, “but I got a little bit tired. But I can’t quit for my team. I have to help them out, have to keep going. We tried so hard, but we got the loss.″
Six players tallied 10 or more points for the North. David Shriver (Philip Barbour) was hot early and scored 17 points, Stephens added 14 points and 13 rebounds, Isaiah Morgan (Ravenswood) scored 12 points, Cole Browning (Braxton County) 11 points and Jesse Maddox (East Fairmont) 10 points.
The South also had a no-show with Huntington High all-state forward Mikal Dawson not playing as anticipated.
Isaac Workman 3, Jesse Maddox 10, Landon Ridgeway 5, Cole Browning 11, Isaiah Morgan 12, David Shriver 17, Jake Stephens 14, Chase Dunaway 4, Jude Akabueze 27.
Jeremy Dillon 15, Ty Walton 4, De’Moni Edwards 5, Spencer Dean 3, Nate Samples 0, Jonathan Blankenship 7, Tyler May 9, Drew Williamson 14, Braeden McGrew 12, E. J. Phillips 16, Justin Phillips 13, Corey Hatfield 9.
Halftime: North 52-42; 3-point shooting: North 11-33 (Workman 1-3, Maddox 2-5, Ridgeway 0-1, Browning 0-2, Morgan 1-4, Shriver 3-12, Stephens 2-6); South 7-41 (Dillon 0-5, Walton 0-2, Edwards 1-4, Dean 1-1, Samples 0-3, Blankenship 1-4, May 1-4, Williamson 2-5, McGrew 0-5, E. Phillips 0-2, J. Phillips 1-5, Hatfield 0-1).
Skill contests finals
Free throws (Best-of-10): Morgan d. McGrew 9-8.
3-point shooting (Best-of-10): Samples d. May 8-5.
Slam dunk: (Tie) Akabueze 30, Hatfield 30.