State Playoff Drive Ends

CHARLESTON – They say the third time might be a charm, but for the time being Parkersburg South is beside itself after shooting lights out in the first half of Thursday’s Class AAA quarterfinal game.

For the second year in a row, the sixth-seeded Patriots lost their opener at the state basketball tournament following a 54-49 loss to third-seeded Hedgesville.

South (19-7), which shot 93 percent from the floor while building a 32-25 halftime lead against Hedgesville, will return three starters and several key reserves in hopes of returning to the Elite Eight next year and getting over the hump of winning at least one game in Charleston.

“We thought we had a chance to win this game,” South coach Mike Fallon said. “All we heard was how we were going to get pounded, but I’m so proud of my kids.

“We missed one shot in the first half, and that doesn’t happen too often. In the first three minutes of the second half Hedgesville played well and we kind of sputtered. Then we didn’t make the plays we needed to down the stretch.”

J.R. Kerr and Garrett Gilkeson led the Patriots in scoring with 10 points apiece. All of Kerr’s point production occurred in the first half, while Gilkeson played a pivotal role off the bench and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.

Doing the most damage for Hedgesville was C.J. Burks, who played as a sophomore on the Eagles’ state championship team two years ago. Against South, Burks poured in a game-high 25 points and hauled in six rebounds despite turning his ankle and leaving the game for a period of time in the second quarter.

Point guard Daniel Delaware contributed 11 points and six steals.

“The Burks kid is a player,” Fallon said. “Him and Jon Elmore (of George Washington) may be the best two players we have seen all year.”

The game appeared headed for a track meet as both teams connected on just about everything they threw up in the first quarter. South made its first five shots from the floor and finished the period 9-of-10 (90 percent) while taking a 22-21 advantage into the second quarter.

Hedgesville nearly equaled South while converting 7-of-10 (70 percent) field goals in the first quarter.

“During warmups as we were watching South, they wouldn’t miss,” Hedgesville coach Kelly Church said. “They shot tremendously in the first quarter and we didn’t feel they could keep it up the whole game. There’s no way.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t guard them. We didn’t guard them well enough.”

Following Kerr’s second 3-pointer of the first half which gave South a 25-21 lead, Burks came up hobbling after trying to run the fast break for the Eagles. Three minutes later, Burks would return to the floor.

The scoring pace slowed down in the second quarter, but South was able to increase the gap to 32-25 by halftime.

“My assistant coach joked that we should be up by 20 with how well we were shooting,” Fallon said. “We looked at the shot chart. In the first half, we were taking that thing inside and posting their guards up. And we didn’t that as much in the second half.”

The tables turned on South at the start of the second half as Hedgesville scored the first nine points to put the Eagles back ahead at 34-32.

Hedgesville maintained a 37-36 edge entering the final quarter then established its largest lead of the game at 40-36 on a 3-pointer from Burks.

The deficit remained four at 42-38 when South’s Cody Monroe began to take control with two straight buckets and a pair of free throws as part of a 6-0 run. With 3 minutes left in regulation, Monroe turned a steal into a layup and a 48-45 lead.

That would mark the last field goal from the South contingent as Hedgesville picked apart the lead and built one of its own by making 10-of-20 free throws in the final quarter.

“Eventually we are going to get through first round – we are going to make some noise,” Fallon said. “We have a lot of kids coming back next year, and that’s our biggest goal which is coming back even stronger.”