No. 1 Huntington Tops Bridgeport 98-59

Bridgeport won the jump ball, Patrick Patterson blocked the first shot by the Indians and Huntington High got the lead on a jumper, then steal and jumper by Jamal Williams and never looked back in the West Virginia SSAC Boys AAA High School semi-final. A dunk by Patterson and an O.J. Mayo two gave the Highlanders a 8-0 lead two minutes in in a 98-59 win to move to the finals for third year in row.

O.J. Mayo was announced in the post-game as the USA Today National High School Player of the Year, and led Huntington with 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting. "It's a honor, a great honor," said Mayo, "but it wouldn't be possible without my teammates help." Huntington will play Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. (WRVC 930 AM) in the Charleston Civic Center for a third consecutive AAA title, a mark that has never been accomplished in the 94 years of the state tournament at the highest level of competition. Northfork High School, which no longer exists, did win eight consecutive AA titles in the 1970s and 1980s. Against Bridgeport (20-4), the Highlanders (24-2) stretched the lead to 16-0 at the 4:30 mark before Thomas Izzo of Bridgeport hit the second of two free throws to get the Indians on the board at 16-1 with 4:24 still left in the first quarter. Huntington led by 27-11 at the end of the quarter. "We wanted to get out to a quick start tonight," said Lloyd McGuffin, head coach of Huntington. "We forced turnovers and turned them into points early."

O.J. Mayo, who is headed to USC, was playing the post in the first half, not unlike Magic Johnson whose number 32 Mayo wears, and might remind fans in California of Johnson running center for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s when Kareen Abdul-Jabbar was injured during the Lakers title runs of that era. Mayo moved to the post when Patrick Patterson, who reportedly took two IVs earlier in the day as he battled the flu, drew two fouls in the first quarter and went to the bench with eight points, a block and a steal. Huntington eventually led 55-26 at the half, as Williams even hit a half-court three pointer at the buzzer at the half. Williams, who hit 5-of-8 from three in the game and was one of five Highlanders to score in double figures with 19 points. Chris Early, who is headed to Oklahoma, had 11 points in the first half with Patterson on the bench and 17 in the game.

Patterson finished with 10 points, missing only one shot for the second consecutive game. He is 17-for-19 in the tournament and added two blocks, steals and assists each along with five rebounds. Asked if his role had changed with Mayo joining after three years at North College Hill in Cincinnati, Patterson said no. "It's the same," said the senior who was watched Friday night by coaches from West Virginia and Duke in the stands but has not committed to a college, "establish an inside position and get rebounds. It might have even been less pressure on me, easier this year with O.J., as the media really likes to talk to him. I've had to do less talking."

Huntington stretched the lead to 74-43 at the end of the third quarter on a series of dazzling dunks in the final four minutes. Mayo had back-to-back dunks, then Early dunked and drew a questionable technical foul for hanging on the rim. That technical got the Highlanders attention, as Mayo then had a reverse dunk, Patterson had a one-handed tomahawk dunk and Early dunked again, then opened the fourth period with another slam which gave HHS 14 straight points on rim-rattlers. HHS ended with 12 dunks on the night and 29 assists.

Bruce Senior had a double-double for Huntington with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Michael Taylor added another 10 points. HHS scored 48 points in the paint and had 29 assists, one more than Wednesday night against Fairmont Senior. The Highlanders shot almost 90 percent in the first quarter and 62 percent for the game (40-of-65) and 48 percent from three (13-of-27). Bridgeport was led by 6-foot-8 junior Bryant Irwin, who had 23 points and five rebounds to go with an assist, block and steal. Thomas Izzo added 10 points and five rebounds. The three games in the evening session drew a crowd of 13,585 fans to the 12,500 seat Civic Center, as fans came and went as each pair of teams played. All reserve tickets for Saturday's championships are gone, but general admission tickets are available for all three games.

All three championship games will air on WRVC 930 AM via Metro News, beginning with the A title game at Noon, with Charleston Catholic taking on Bishop Donahue. The Bishops upset No. 1 and undefeated Gilbert in the morning session to break up an all-Southern West Virginia final day. In AA, it will be No. 1 Wyoming East, who won in the last second over No. 5 Winfield tonight (58-57), versus No. 2 Logan in the title game at 2:30 p.m. No. 1 Huntington will face No. 3 South Charleston for the third time this season. The Black Eagles defeated No. 6 Morgantown by a score of 50-48 in the second close game of the evening. The AAA tip-off at 7:15 p.m. and the game will also be televised live on WCHS TV-8. With Charleston Catholic, Wyoming East and Huntington in the finals, their opponents will have to defeat teams dressed in green on St. Patrick's Day, especially tough for the Bishops against the Fighting Irish of Catholic. Also note, the NCAA Tournament, both men's and women's - which moved to radio next week, also from Westwood One - will air on WCMI 1340 AM on Saturday with the high school championships on WRVC, but the collegiate games move back to 930 AM on Sunday and for the duration of the tournament up through the men's title game on April 2.

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