By LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
COUNCIL, Va. —
Council has been on the heartbreaking end of more than its share of close games this season.
Tuesday they survived a heart-pounding finish.
The Cobras advanced to the Black Diamond District semifinals by winning a 53-50 thriller over Grundy in opening round action at Council Elementary School.
Seniors Cameron Presley (23 points) and Justin Mathis (16) combined for 39 points as Council (8-13) built a 49-41 lead midway through the fourth quarter and held on to end a five-game losing streak.
Grundy (3-19) got within 51-50 on a steal and lay-in by Gavin Nash-Cleek with 32 seconds remaining.
After Council missed two front ends of one-and-ones Josh Viers hit two free throws with 17 seconds left. After a timeout Grundy missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It was a typical finish for the Cobras, who dubbed themselves the cardiac kids after seeing 17 games decided by one or two possessions, including 10 losses and Tuesday’s victory. “It’s been that way all year,” Council coach Patrick Wade said. “We’ve lost a lot of close games, but we’ve also won four of five overtime games.
“Even when Grundy came back, no matter what, no matter how the breaks go, I never doubt our guys. We knew this was a win or go home game for us. We challenged our seniors, our captains and I think they responded.”
No one responded better in the second half than Mathis. The Council senior was 5-of-6 from the field and scored 10 points in the second half to help the Cobras build a lead.
“I worked too hard for this,” Mathis said. “I didn’t want my career to end tonight. I put in a lot of work and I wanted it to pay off.”
Mathis missed parts of two seasons with a debilitating leg injury that included multiple surgeries.
“I give ‘Jut’ a lot of credit,” Wade added. “He’s put in hour after hour of hard work and improved his skill set. He and Keeton Bostic put in so much extra work in the off-season. “Jut is my kind of kid. He’s a self-made young man who really has worked for everything he’s got. This was a ‘respect’ game for him and us.”
Bostic hauled in 11 rebounds and Viers doled out seven assists for Council, which will face Haysi in a Friday semifinal contest.
Dylan Billiter fought off a bout of the flu to scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half to help Grundy keep it close. Blake Cehajic added 10 points and Charles McCoy contributed 12 rebounds and six assists for a Golden Wave team without any seniors on the floor Tuesday.
“Billiter hit some big shots for us,” said first-year Grundy coach Jeremy Ratliff. “We struggled defensively, but I thought both teams came ready to play.
“It doesn’t show up in our record, but if you saw us from beginning to end you saw a lot of improvement. We still have plenty of work ahead of us, we just need to put the time in in the off-season.”
Despite the loss Grundy, which was just 10-of-22 from the free throw line, will travel for a first round game next week in the Region D, Division 2 tournament.
At Council Elementary School
C. McCoy 4 0-1 8, Billiter 4 5-10 16, J. McCoy 2 0-0 5, Cehajic 4 1-3 9, Dillow 3 4-8 10, Nash-Cleek 1 0-0 2 . Totals – 18 10-22 50.
Viers 1 2-3 5, Presley 9 5-8 23, Mathis 8 0-0 16, Bostic 0 0-0 0, Barton 1 3-5 6, Tiller 1 0-0 3 Mackey 0 0-0 0. Totals – 20 10-16 53.
Grundy...................................14 8 13 15 -- 50
Council..................................17 9 15 12 -- 53
3-point goals – Grundy 4 (Billiter 3, J. McCoy), Council 3 (Viers, Barton, Tiller). Total fouls-Grundy 15, Council 18. Fouled out-Presley, Mathis. Technicals-none.