CHARLESTON (March 19) – It took Dominique Newman all of 11 seconds to emphatically stamp his arrival at the state basketball tournament in Charleston.
Washington’s Kendell Smith won the opening tip, tapping the ball to forward Josh Dudley, who passed it on to Newman.
The senior guard then pulled up from well behind the 3-point line and drained a 24-footer, signaling to everyone gathered Wednesday night at the Civic Center that the top-seeded Patriots had come to play.
Newman and Dudley led No. 1 Washington with a team-high 18 points apiece and Smith added 15 points as the Patriots rolled to an 81-61 victory over No. 8 Morgantown in the Class AAA quarterfinals.
The victory advanced undefeated Washington (25-0) to the semifinals Friday, where the Patriots faced No. 5 Huntington (20-4) after the Highlanders topped No. 4 George Washington (19-6) on Thursday.
Washington started strong against the Mohigans (15-11) as Newman hit a pair of long 3-pointers in the first quarter to help lead the Patriots to an early 23-8 advantage.
“You give me space, I’m going to shoot it,” Newman said.
Washington closed the first quarter on a 20-4 run after the Mohigans led 4-3 in the opening moments. The Patriots continued to pour it on the second quarter despite already substituting players liberally off the bench.
Newman, Smith and Maleke Jones stymied the Mohigans with six first-half steals as the Patriots widened their early lead to pull ahead 43-20 at halftime.
“We had a nice little run there,” said Washington coach Don Bullett. “The kids came down and did a nice job. A lot of that starts from rebounding.”
Smith had a game-high 16 rebounds and Jerome Jones and Maleke Jones each added double-digit scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Jerome Jones added eight rebounds and Maleke Jones added seven assists. Smith was named player of the game.
“I thought our kids did a nice job in transition,” Bullett said. “But we also did a nice job defensively. We were able to rebound and push the ball up the floor. We did what we needed to do on the boards.”
Dudley paced Washington with 12 points before intermission, including hitting four free throws as the Patriots were a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line. But Washington’s runaway scoring slowed considerably to begin the second half before Newman hit his third 3-pointer of the game with a minute remaining in the third quarter.
Jerome Jones added a basket in the final seconds as the Patriots answered that brief drought by ending the period ahead 25 points, 59-34.
Morgantown outscored Washington in the second half, but with about four minutes remaining the Patriots had already pulled their starters, including Dudley, who left the game after landing hard on his hip.
Washington also struggled while shooting just 20-of-32 free throws, after hitting a perfect 7-for-7 during the first half. Smith hit just 1-of-7 from the foul line.
“I wasn’t hitting my free throws, but if I was going to the basket, I was going to score,” Smith said. “They knew if they fouled me they’d make me earn them from the line. I wasn’t making them so, that was the smart approach.”
Derrick Brunson led Washington with four points off the bench and Ryan French added three with a pull-up jumper behind the arc.
The Patriots shot 46.7 percent from the floor overall, 45.5 percent from 3-point range and had 16 assists to just six turnovers.
“We just go out there and we try not to rush things,” Newman said. “Coach really stresses letting the game come to you. So we just go out there, stay patient and stay unselfish.”
Steven Solomon led Morgantown with 11 points, while Elvin McNally, Shaun Carden and Zakeem Davis added nine points apiece.
Washington’s advantage in team speed was apparent from the beginning, as Newman finished with six steals and Maleke Jones added four. The Patriots scored 23 points off turnovers, compared to five by the Mohigans.
“It’s hard to simulate playing against that good a team,” said Morgantown coach Tom Yester. “I was very impressed with their athleticism.”
“If they make a mistake, they can recover,” Yester said. “If you make a mistake against them, you can’t recover.”