Early foul trouble makes comeback too much for Heat
Simply playing in the Under 16 AAU national basketball tournament has been a new experience for the West Virginia Rush.
But in their wildest dreams, the Rush never imagined they would play a team under the guidance of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.
Needing a win after losing their first pool game early Friday, the Rush outscored the Tennessee Heat 17-4 in the third quarter and posted a 53-36 win Friday evening at Rossview High School.
The Rush still have a chance to finish in the top half of their pool, which would advance them to the championship bracket, beginning Sunday. But they have to beat the Indiana SYF Players today.
"We won the state championship in West Virginia and we came down here, and this has been a new, exciting adventure for us," Rush coach Tony Lucas said. "They've played their hearts out all season long for us, and tonight was just icing on the cake.
"I never dreamed in my life that I would coach against Pat Summitt. That was really great and our guys, they had no clue they would ever play against her."
Three players scored in double figures for the Rush, led by Ryan Powers' 15 points. Michael Fortune and Shawn Wood scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
"We had a team meeting before we came here basically trying to get them to calm down," Lucas said. "We knew who they were going to be playing against, so naturally they were a little nervous and uptight."
The Heat have one pool game remaining today against NE Maine, and will play in the single-elimination classic bracket beginning Sunday regardless of the outcome.
Foul trouble and turnovers neutralized the Heat's offensive effort, and gave the Rush too many scoring opportunities in the paint and from the free-throw line.
"We had three starters in foul trouble early and we just fouled too much," Summitt said. "This team played a lot harder than we did. They were the more aggressive team and I think they were certainly the more disciplined team taking care of the ball and not fouling."
The Heat's Trever Pryor sat out most of the first half with foul trouble and finished with 11 points before fouling out with 3:39 remaining in the fourth. Donovan Whiteside also fouled out in the fourth quarter, and finished with two points.
Despite foul trouble, the Heat found themselves tied with Rush at 10-10 after the first quarter. Turnovers and fouls continued to mount against the Heat, and the Rush took advantage, building a 24-18 lead at halftime.
Using their 17-4 scoring advantage in the third, the Rush built a comfortable 41-22 margin going into the fourth. They were in control until the Heat made the game interesting in the opening minutes of the fourth.
Using a 9-0 run, the Heat climbed back into the game and trailed 41-31 on Whiteside's basket with 4:41 remaining. Fortune's basket stopped the Heat scoring spree, and the loss of Pryor and Whiteside to fouls ended any chance of a comeback.