Prep boys basketball: Jackets fall to Wirt

ELIZABETH, W.VA. -Dustin Garner scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter here Thursday night and teammate Kalob Bell canned two foul shots with 23 seconds to go as host Wirt County turned back Williamstown, 72-69, to capture 11th place in the Little Kanawha Conference.

In a battle of rival squads who entered the contest with identical 6-14 marks, Bell ended up leading all scorers with 26 points, a dozen of which came in the second quarter.

“A lot of guys stepped up and made plays. He’s (Garner) the reason why we won,” said Tiger head coach Tim Murray, whose team concludes the regular season with a road trip Wednesday to Ritchie County.

Hunter Neely, who led the ‘Jackets with 23 points, made two free throws to open the fourth and gave the visitors a 52-48 lead. The margin remained at four, 61-57, when Neely scored on a lay-in with 3:46 remaining. However, Garner was in the midst of scoring 11 straight points for the Tigers and although he didn’t convert a three-point play with 3:20 left, his deuce from an Austin McVey assist gave the orange and black a 63-62 cushion.

Neely’s three-point play later made it 65-63 and the ‘Jackets led for the final time at 67-66 when Austin Hall scored inside.

Garner, who finished with three blocks including a pair in the fourth quarter, hit two freebies with 70 seconds left to give Wirt County the lead for good.

Mark Cunningham (nine points, five boards) hit a leaner in the lane from a Garner dish to make it 70-67 with 0:45 showing and the last points of the evening for WHS came on a Dakota Watson lay-in with 28.9 to go.

Bell, though, ended up hitting the two foul shots to extend the Tigers’ advantage to three.

Although Tiger Jeremy Kerby was whistled for a foul on a 3-point attempt by Josh Palmer with only three seconds to go, the ‘Jacket sophomore couldn’t tie the game. He missed the first two foul shots and then turned it over when he tried to intentionally miss the third, but failed to hit the cylinder.

JT Stephens (10 points) hit a 3 that was followed by a Trent Hardbarger basket and a Bell triple as the Tigers took an early 8-2 cushion. Jarric Hoskins tallied all nine of his points in the opening eight minutes and when he scored them all consecutively WHS led 13-12, only to have the hosts rally and take an 18-14 advantage into the second quarter.

Williamstown, which will conduct senior night on Monday when Paden City visits, trailed by a dozen at 32-20 with 2:43 left before intermission when Cunningham jumped up to steal a pass and then deflected the ball to Bell for an easy hoop. The ‘Jackets closed the gap to five at 34-29 at intermission as Chandler Weber hit a pair of 3s for part of his 14 points and Neely drained a near 30-footer just before the halftime buzzer.

Josh DeBolt hauled in a game-high 16 rebounds and chipped in seven points for the ‘Jackets, who lost 70-67 to the Tigers three days after Christmas in the consolation game of the Wirt County Holiday Tournament.