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Express survives close one

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- Huntington Prep's boys basketball team learned a valuable lesson Wednesday night.

A team simply has to bring it to the court every night, no matter who the opponent is.

The University of Charleston junior varsity outhustled and outscrapped the Express in King Gym, but Huntington Prep used a solid start to the fourth quarter and the emergence of sophomore Austin Grandstaff to earn a 111-98 win.

"We didn't do a very good job of keeping them out of the middle, and when you let guys go middle, you have to help," Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said. "Penetrate and kick is the name of basketball these days and they were able to hit a ton of threes."

Former George Washington High School standout Tino DiTrapano hit a 3-pointer to cut Huntington Prep's lead to 78-77 after the first possession of the fourth quarter, but the Express answered with a 12-2 run to seize control of the game.

Grandstaff was the catalyst in the final period with six points, four assists and three rebounds while pushing the tempo to Fulford's liking.

"They were in a zone once again, and we got a little sluggish," Fulford said. "We have to have guys that want to force the tempo on the court."

Grandstaff finished with 21 points and seven assists.

Andrew Wiggins, the nation's top college prospect for the Class of 2013, did not disappoint the fans that came to King Gym, finishing with 31 points, 21 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Still, Wiggins and the Express were unable to distance themselves until the fourth quarter because of the hot-shooting of Charleston.

DiTrapano's play helped keep the Eagles in the contest until late. He hit on six 3-pointers and had 27 points.

He said going up against some of the nation's top prospects gave him some added motivation.

"I was definitely hyped and ready for this game," DiTrapano said. "I asked No. 3 (Travon Landry) where he was going and he said Tennessee, so I knew I had to step my game up a little bit. It was fun playing against Wiggins, too, because I know I'm going to see him in the league in a couple of years."

Fulford said the game showed his team exactly what they need to shore up heading into an important weekend.

The Express battle La Lumiere (Ind.) -- a Top 10 team nationally -- on Friday at the Flyin' To The Hoop Classic in Dayton, Ohio, before flying to Massachusetts to take on New Hampton Prep (Mass.) in a nationally-televised contest at 5 p.m., Sunday, on ESPN.

Fulford said both teams run offenses similar to Charleston.

"We play nothing but ball-screen, ball-screen, ball-screen on Friday and Sunday with more athletic players," Fulford said. "This was a good learning experience for us."

Montaque Gill-Caesar had 19 points for Huntington Prep while Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Patrick Strake both added 13.

Charleston also got solid efforts across the board to aid DiTrapano. Kyle James finished with 18 points, Marwan Sarhan had 16. Eli Staton added 15 points and nine rebounds and Anthony Williams also had 14 points.

HUNTINGTON PREP 21 34 23 33 - 111: Wiggins 31, Grandstaff 21, Arroyo 6, Woodson 6, Gill-Caesar 19, Strake 13, Landry 2, Rathan-Mayes 13.

UNIV OF CHARLESTON JV 16 33 25 24 - 98: DiTrapano 27, Williams 14, Staton 15, Newman 6, James 18, Sarhan 16, Minor 2.

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