CHARLESTON - Tucker County used clutch 3-point shooting in the first half to hold off Greater Beckley Christian 68-61 in a Class A quarterfinal contest Wednesday night at the Civic Center.
The victory sends the fourth-seed Mountain Lions (21-3) into a semifinal matchup with top-seed Tug Valley at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Tucker County, making its 12th straight state tourney appearance, drilled seven shots from beyond the arc over the first two quarters, led by Austin Zirk and Ian Nichols with three each. Senior point guard Tyler Snyder, meanwhile, tallied 15 of his game-high 22 points before intermission as the Mountain Lions built a 37-24 lead.
"We really executed well in the first half," Mountain Lion coach Tom Gutshall said. "We were patient on offense and finding the open
The Crusaders, appearing in the state tournament for the first time since 2007, struggled early from 3-point land, missing all eight of their attempts in the opening half.
"The difference in the game was the first half," Greater Beckley Christian coach Dan Burd said. "We got out of what we wanted to do defensively and got caught up in some screens.
"Give Tucker credit, though, because they knocked down some shots and we were never able to recover."
The Crusaders cut the margin to five points midway through the third quarter before the Mountain Lions made another run to maintain a 48-36 edge entering the final period.
The lead never dwindled under six points over the final 8 minutes of regulation as the Mountain Lions secured the win from the charity stripe. Tucker County was 14-of-19 from the free-throw line in the second half.
Nichols added 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Zirk finished with 16 points and five assists for the Mountain Lions, who committed only
eight turnovers on the night.
"We have three shooters on this team," Snyder said. "If one of them isn't hitting, the other two will take up the slack.
"Tonight it just happened that all three of us were on at the same time."
Javonne Staunton-Bailey, who picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, led the Crusaders with 17 points. Elisha Kidd chipped in with 14 points and Keith Mullins 11 points and 10 rebounds. Mullins missed all eight of his 3-point attempts after entering the game hitting 53 percent from beyond the arc during the season.
"Stopping Mullins from hitting from the outside was key," Gutshall said. "All three guys we put on him did a great job of forcing him to
put the ball on the floor."
Greater Beckley Christian ends the season 19-6.