CHARLESTON – Corey Spour came up with the chance Charleston badly needed.
The sophomore guard pilfered away a pass on Mount Zion’s press break in the corner with less than 30 seconds left and began a mad dash for his basket, armed with the ball and a chance for his team to take a lead and pull out a win.
Mount Zion’s defense, though, had a different agenda. It forced a contested jumper from Isaac Miller that fell short with three seconds left.
“That wasn’t what we drew up,” Charleston coach Blain Mayhall said.
Charleston (7-11, 1-5 Apollo) fell to Mount Zion 47-44 Tuesday in a back-and-forth affair at Baker Gym. Neither team led by more than eight. Mount Zion held a slight advantage for the entire fourth quarter.
Miller, a junior forward, led Charleston with 14 points. Sophomore guard Cade Landrus added 10. Junior forward Caleb Hurst and Spour had seven each.
Spour’s steal was the second opportunity for a go-ahead basket in the final 90 seconds. A Caleb Hurst block led to a transition chance for Charleston. It looked like it would end in a layup. Instead, it produced a turnover along the baseline.
Charleston shot 42 percent, but mustered just nine points in each of the third and fourth quarters. The transition opportunities forced on defense dried up, and so did the points. The Trojans, operating out of their half-court offense for most of the second half, found few easy looks. Mayhall, hoping to jump-start something, repeatedly wheedled his team to start moving without the ball.
“When we’re in the half court, we just all stand and watch each other,” Mayhall said. “It’s something we try to work on every day and something we need to continue to work on.”
Early on, though, Charleston erased an eight-point Mount Zion lead, largely courtesy of Spour and transition opportunities, as Landrus and Hurst combined for just five in the first half. The duo’s only appearance in the first-quarter was a pair of missed Hurst free throws.
Spour handled the early scoring load with aplomb. He had a hand in all eight of Charleston’s points that made a 12-4 deficit with 2:52 left in the first quarter a 12-12 tie at the end of the opening stanza. Spour made a jumper, assisted on a Zach Finley basket and they converted a 3-point play.
He began the second half with two defensive plays that briefly padded his team’s 26-23 halftime advantage. He hung onto an interior entry pass to force a held ball that went to Charleston. Then, on the next defensive possession, Spour swiped away the ball on the wing and found Hurst for a breakaway dunk.
“Corey always plays hard,” Mayhall said. “I won’t ever question his effort.”
Mount Zion, meanwhile, hung around. The Braves made just two 3-pointers did most of their work in the paint. Junior forward Nash Mose led all scorers with 15 points. All of them came in the paint. Eight of them came in the third quarter. Mt. Zion took its first lead since late in the first quarter on Mose’s basket with 3:58 left.
“We’re at a disadvantage most games we play because someone has a big, strong kid we don’t have,” Mayhall said. “Caleb is 6-foot-5 but he’s giving up some weight. I thought he did a nice job trying to get around (Mose).”