LINDSIDE (WVDN) – Braydon McClung set a career-high with 31 points Tuesday night in Lindside, but his effort came in an 85-62 loss to Coalfield Conference and Region III rival James Monroe. McClung’s night included a career-best 11-13 from the free-throw line, topping his 9-10 performance at Summers County in a 70-57 win on Feb. 3, 2022.
The Cavaliers have faced a stout schedule in their first seven contests, and save for the opener, the losses have mounted. West has dropped six straight games for the first time since the 2015 season. The Cavaliers fell to Class AA’s No. 10 Wyoming East and No. 8 Poca before Christmas and concluded their December schedule with a close home loss to sectional foe Webster County. The Highlanders were ranked No. 2 in the statewide coaches’ poll and No. 8 in the AP poll. West resumed their season at the New River CTC Invitational in Beckley last week, succumbing to a winless Class AAA Independence squad and falling to Class AA Liberty Raleigh.
The challenge would not get easier Tuesday night. James Monroe was the defending Class A state champion. The Mavericks have been the unanimous No. 1 team in Class A all season and have played some stiff competition themselves. James Monroe got off to a 7-0 start before dropping back-to-back games to perennial Class AAAA-power Woodrow Wilson and 2022 Class AAA state runner-up and current AP No. 1 Shady Spring. The Mavericks led both games late in the fourth quarter. Following those two contests, James Monroe dispatched Class A No. 2 (AP) Webster County 71-59 in the New River CTC Invitational.
The Mavericks won the tip, and Colin Fox promptly scored the game’s first points with a couple of ball fakes and a short-range jumper off the glass. After that, James Monroe would never trail in the game. The Mavericks jumped out to a 5-0 lead before West got on the scoreboard with a pair of Michael Kanode free-throws. Moments later, Tanner Hagy knocked down a jump shot to pull West within three at 9-6. James Monroe senior Juan Hopkins answered with a pair of made free throws to stretch the Maverick lead to 5, but Hagy responded with a dribble drive layup from the left side for the Cavaliers. Hagy’s lay-in cut the advantage to 11-8 James Monroe. That’s when the Mavericks began to heat up from 3-point range.
Fox knocked down the first of his five first half 3-pointers to extend the Maverick lead to 14-8. After a Kanode miss, All State point guard Eli Allen drilled a 3 to grow James Monroe’s lead to 9. Allen built the lead to 13 before McClung hit his first field goal of the night, briefly breaking Maverick momentum. McClung’s score cut the Maverick’s lead to 21-10. Moments later, a Kanode put-back cut the lead to 9 at 23-14.
As the second quarter commenced, McClung started to heat up for the Cavaliers. After Fox nailed a catch-and-shoot 3, McClung knocked down a pair of free throws for West. McClung then attacked Allen in the open floor for a nice one-on-one bucket. McClung followed that up by beating Fox down the floor for an underhanded layup, cutting the Maverick advantage to 8 points.
Cooper Ridgeway got in on the action after an assist from Allen, then collected a steal on the subsequent possession. After drawing a West foul, Ridgeway nailed the front end of a one-and-one. Fox resumed the playmaking for James Monroe at that point, hitting a running one-hander along the baseline and drawing a foul. Fox converted the free throw then baited Kanode into a foul, drawing a charge. Kanode atoned for the foul on the next possession with a jump hook. The Kanode basket interrupted a brief, 7-0 run for James Monroe.
McClung missed his only two free throws of the night on the Cavaliers’ next offensive possession; however, he promptly rebounded his second attempt and weaved his way off the left side for a layup. Boone then stole Allen’s pass and dealt to McClung who was fouled on the drive. McClung knocked down both free throws and cut the lead to 36-25. That’s where the Cavalier run ended.
Ridgeway started the Maverick’s final first half push with a layup followed by an Allen steal and coast-to-coast bucket. A West turnover led to a Fox 3 from the right wing, and after a third straight Cavalier miscue, Burks rainbowed in a 3 from the left corner. Burks hit only one 3 in the first half but connected on six 3-pointers for the Mavericks in the game.
Boone ended the half with a Euro-step lay-in for West, but the Mavericks held a commanding 45-28 lead at the break.
Fox, the most active James Monroe shooter, had 17 first-half points.
Greenbrier West showed some grit coming out of the intermission, crafting a 10-2 run to open the second half. Kanode started the West rally with a pair of free throws and a blocked shot that ignited a fast break. McClung scored with a pump fake in the left corner, freeing him enough to split three Maverick defenders and lay the ball in. After Allen missed a 3, Parker drove baseline, did a 180 and kicked the ball back to Boone. Boone got the shooters roll to nail a West 3-pointer.
A Kanode steal then set up a dramatic one-on-one, open-floor matchup between McClung and Allen. McClung launched into the air, slightly bumping off Allen’s chest. Allen sold out for the block, extending his arms straight up before swatting at McClung’s shot. McClung kissed the ball off the glass as both players hit the floor, looking behind them to see the ball drop through the hoop. McClung then completed the traditional 3-point play.
Fox and the Mavericks promptly halted the Greenbrier West rally with a 3-pointer. Hagy answered from the right baseline with a midrange jumper, but Allen responded by slicing down the lane and hitting a layup, drawing a foul and completing the 3-point play. Fox knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the night, and the Maverick advantage was suddenly back to 16 points. James Monroe would close the remainder of the third quarter on an 8-1 run to lead 64-41.
McClung and the Cavaliers would try to go down swinging in the fourth quarter. McClung split Brady Baker and Fox near the basket and hit a short-ranger jumper off the glass. Kanode then blocked an Owen Jackson jumper into the hands of Boone who started a fast break for the Cavaliers. Boone hit McClung near the right corner, and McClung connected for 3. After a handful of scoreless possessions for each team, Kanode kicked the ball to McClung on the left wing, and the junior knocked down his second 3 of the quarter, briefly trimming the lead to 15. Allen would answer, though, cutting through the lane for a layup and effectively ending the Cavaliers’ night.
Greenbrier West will host Meadow Bridge this Friday at 7:30 p.m. JV begins at 5:45 p.m. Local radio coverage can be found on Rock 95 at 7:15 p.m. James Monroe heads to Tucker County at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Cavaliers and Mavericks meet again in Charmco on Feb. 14.
GW: 14 14 13 21 – 62
JM: 23 22 19 21 – 85
Greenbrier West – Brayden McClung 31, Michael Kanode 9, Dale Boone 7, Tanner Hagy 6, Chris Davis 3, Matthew Thomas 2, Isaac Agee 2, Asher Barclay 2.
James Monroe – Josh Burks 22, Collin Fox 21, Eli Allen 19, Cooper Ridgeway 10, Owen Jackson 7, Juan Hopkins 4, Ethan Ganoe 2.
3-point goals – GW: 3 (McClung 2, Boone 1); JM: 14 (Burks 6, Fox 5, Allen 2, Jackson 1).