South conquers North

Calvin Blankenship

By Rick Ryan

For the Daily News

When you’ve got two point guards as talented as Brandon Knapper and Tavian Dunn-Martin, it makes sense to split them up, and that’s what the South All-Stars did Friday night.

Playing largely one at a time, Knapper scored 31 points and Dunn-Martin 26 as the South divided and conquered, earning a 115-109 victory in the North-South Classic at the South Charleston Community Center.

It was the fourth straight win for the South in the series, which it now leads 28-6 since the game resumed in 1983. The paid attendance was listed at 498, but the total crowd was probably closer to 900.

Knapper, the West Virginia University recruit from South Charleston, also added eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals, and Dunn-Martin, who’s bound for Akron, dished out four assists with two steals. They were selected as co-MVPs for the South.

“This is what I had in mind,’’ Dunn-Martin said. “I’m glad I got the dub in my last high school game. It was pretty fun out there. [The North] had a very good team, it was good competition and I’m excited we got the win.’’

The underdog North squad placed five players in double figures, with Darhius Nunn of Class AA state champion Fairmont Senior taking MVP honors for his 17-point, seven-assist, five-steal effort. He knocked down three straight 3-pointers in the second half as the North, which trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, took an 84-80 lead with 10 minutes left, that coming on a 3 from Luke Dyer (Robert C. Byrd).

The North was still hanging around with less than four minutes remaining, trailing just 103-102, when the South went on a quick 8-2 surge.

Neil Williams (Capital) scored three fast-break baskets in that stretch, two of them coming directly after blocks at the other end by Ripley’s 6-foot-8 Luke Layhew. The other came on a feed from Knapper with 1:30 left to effectively seal it, bumping the South’s lead to 111-104. Knapper also followed in his own missed shot in that run.

Knapper credited his strong game to the recent help he’s received in Morgantown.

“I’ve been going up to WVU and working out the last few weeks with Juwan Staten and Jevon Carter,’’ Knapper said. “They’ve been teaching me a lot of things about mental toughness and looking for your teammates and trying to score if they’re not open. So I learned a lot from them and soaked it up like a sponge.

“This was very special. A thank-you for everyone who came out and supported us. It was very good, and I’m very happy.’’

Huntington’s Ron Hess, one of the South’s co-coaches, started Knapper at the point, then brought Dunn-Martin off the bench about seven minutes into the 20-minute first half. Knapper and Dunn-Martin didn’t appear on the floor together until the 4:51 mark.

“The thought was that all these kids are here,’’ Hess said, “and they want to be able to play with [Knapper and Dunn-Martin], and I thought in order for those kids to have that chance, I could put those two in and divide them up. Because they’re very good, they’re special basketball players, and you want to let those kids play with them, and it’s nice for them.

“When you’ve got two great point guards like that, you’ve got one group in there, then you can bring in another group and there’s not a dropoff at the point, and that’s unbelievable.’’

The South also received 13 points, seven rebounds and one dunk from Nequan Carrington (Woodrow Wilson) and a double-double from Williams (11 points, 11 rebounds). Layhew landed nine boards as the South led 65-50 in rebounding.

The North wound up with five players in double figures. Along with Nunn, there was Kenzie Melko of AAA champion Morgantown (19 points, six rebounds, four assists, three dunks), Bridgeport’s Nick Greely (18 points, nine rebounds), Dyer (14 points, three steals, four of the North’s 16 3-pointers) and Weir’s Jonathan West (11 points, three assists). Martinsburg’s Jarrell Jones added nine points, nine boards and three steals.

Nunn, who’s headed for Glenville State, cherished the chance to play against Division I recruits Knapper and Dunn-Martin.

“I knew I could always play with them,’’ Nunn said. “They’re two really good players and they’re really quick, but I’d have been more satisfied if we’d have won. I’ve been playing against them for a long time — most of it’s been in traveling AAU — but this is the first time in high school I ever got to match up with them, and I was looking forward to it.’’

Dunn-Martin didn’t mind sharing the MVP award on a stage like the North-South game with Knapper, who plans to play next season at Hargrave Military, a prep school in Virginia.

“It’s definitely all right,’’ Dunn-Martin said. “He deserved it. He had 31 points. I’m glad he was on my team because without him, we might not have won. I’ve been playing with him, he’s like my brother and my best friend.’’

During the pregame skills competitions, Melko won the slam dunk contest, Nunn the 3-point shootout and the South’s Matt Justice (Herbert Hoover) led the free-throw shooting.

Receiving $500 scholarships from the sponsoring West Virginia Athletic Directors Association were Landon Travis of Williamstown (North) and Kaden Meeks (South).South 115, North 109


Player FG-A FT-A Reb Ast Pts

Nick Greeley 7-13 4-7 9 0 18

Landon Travis 0-0 0-0 1 0 0

Darhius Nunn 7-21 0-0 1 7 17

Jonathan West 4-9 0-0 1 3 11

Jarrell Jones 4-8 0-0 9 2 9

Luke Dyer 5-9 0-0 4 2 14

Ben Riley 2-2 0-0 1 1 5

Colby Cunningham 0-1 0-0 1 0 0

Seth Evans 3-4 2-2 4 0 8

Garrett Gilkeson 2-13 0-0 7 5 5

Kyle Jackson 1-4 0-0 2 0 3

Riley Allen 0-1 0-0 0 1 0

Kenzie Melko 8-13 1-2 6 4 19

Totals 43-98 7-11 50 25 109


Player FG-A FT-A Reb Ast Pts

Neil Williams 5-8 1-2 11 0 11

Brandon Knapper 13-21 2-2 7 8 31

Matt Justice 1-2 0-0 0 1 3

Kenneth Brown 2-2 2-2 3 0 6

Nequan Carrington 5-10 3-3 7 0 13

Tavian Dunn-Martin 10-26 2-3 4 4 26

Hayden McCarty 1-1 0-0 3 0 2

Austin Henrich 2-2 0-0 2 0 4

Calvin Blankenship 0-0 0-0 2 0 0

Kaden Meeks 1-4 0-0 1 0 2

Colby Wickline 0-2 0-0 1 0 0

Matt Ryan 1-5 0-0 2 0 2

Josh Carpenter 2-9 3-4 8 2 7

Luke Layhew 3-10 2-3 9 0 8

Totals 46-102 15-19 65 15

Calvin Blankenship Blankenship
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