CHARLESTON - Realistically, Wheeling Jesuit failed to do precisely one thing during its Mountain East Conference Tournament quarterfinal Friday at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum. The Cardinals rebounded from an early 9-0 deficit but couldn't find a way to consistently rebound the basketball in a 91-85 overtime loss at the hands of second-seeded Charleston.
The Cardinals shot 50.7 percent and held a 42-18 advantage on points in the paint, while turnovers (13) and assists (22) were even, making the Golden Eagles' 50-31 upperhand on the boards all the more glaring.
"That was one of the things we talked about, our keys to the game. Often when people are playing you zone you're going to have a better chance of crashing the glass because maybe they have some unsureness as far as what the block-out responsibilities are," Charleston (19-8) coach Dwaine Osborne said. "Our guys are long and tough to box out."
Wheeling Jesuit took a 76-73 lead with 20.5 to go in regulation on Andre Harris' three-point play off his own steal. Xavier Humphrey countered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key before chaos ensued. There were four possessions in 0.3 seconds two by each team.
With 1.7 remaining Wheeling Jesuit tried a lob off a sideline inbound play, but Harris' pass hit the rim and went directly out of bounds without anyone touching the ball. On the other end Charleston's Aleksander Kesic banked in a deep 3-pointer, but it was ruled his foot was out of bounds before he got the shot off. Harris traveled on a stationary inbounds play and finally, another Kesic 3 was well short.
The Golden Eagles scored the first seven points of overtime and it proved too steep a hill for Jesuit to overcome.
"They're a very good defensive team and I thought if we were able to get to the 80(-point) mark I felt we would win the game,"Sancomb said. "We've got a pretty good team. (The MEC) has four teams ranked in the regional rankings and none of them are all that much better than us.
"They're better than us but not by a lot."
Freshman Mikey Newsome, a Tug Valley graduate, entered the game with six 3-pointers but hit 5 of 9 Friday and finished with 17 points, one of five Golden Eagles in double figures. He was filling in for his former high school teammate, Austin Brewer, who was ill.
"He was all over our scouting report," Wheeling Jesuit (15-13) coach Danny Sancomb said, "because he made three of them the first time we played them.
"They did a good job of going inside our zone and kicking it back out."
After falling behind early the Cardinals slowly chipped away, eventually taking a 26-24 lead as Harris notched two of his game-high 22. Newsome though, hit back-to-back 3s to give the Eagles a 40-34 lead at halftime.
Wheeling Jesuit built its biggest lead six when Harris scored five straight to make it 54-48, but came up empty on a couple of ensuing trips down the floor with a chance to gain some separation.
Charleston returned the favor when Xavier Humphrey (19 points, eight rebounds) sandwiched a pair of 3s around a Harris basket, but still allowed Jesuit to creep back in. Just Fritts worked off a triple screen to bury a 3-pointer from the right corner to knot it at 73-73 with 57.2 to go.
Eric Siefert, a first team All-MEC selection, added 19 points and 10 assists for the Cardinals while Fritts notched all 18 of his points in the second half, to go along with six assists and three boards.
"Andre Harris, as our lone senior on this team, has worked extremely hard for us and it's sad that he won't be with us next year," Sancomb said. "I will miss him."
Humphrey had 19 points to go along with eight rebounds for the Golden Eagles, while Fred Simpson had a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds six offensive.
"It was an unbelievable game,"Osborne said. "It was a war, and we knew it was going to be a war.
"They've got a lot of guys who can shoot it and really stretch you out. I mean, Fritts and Siefert are two of the best players in our league.
"Our guys really fought and showed some resiliency and toughness."