February 25, 2009

Craig does it all Great Fals boys' basketball team earns a trip to Class A Upper State championship

COLUMBIA -- Too much height, and way too much Torrey Craig.

Great Falls used that dynamite combination to easily dispatch Hunter-Kinard-Tyler 69-42 on Tuesday, propelling the Red Devils to a position they are accustomed to occupying. Great Falls is back in the Upper State championship, one win from playing for the Class A state title.

The Devils will play the Landrum Cardinals, a 70-54 winner Tuesday over Williston-Elko, at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Greenville's BI-LO Center.

"The real difference tonight was strictly our size," Great Falls coach John Smith said. "We got a lot of stickbacks and rebounds. And Torrey's perimeter shooting gave us an edge."

No kidding.

The rangy Craig took the game over in the second quarter, scoring 14 of his game-high 28 points, including two of his three 3-pointers. He also vacuum-cleaned the glass, hauling down six rebounds on his way to 14 for the game.

The smaller and somewhat quicker Trojans (18-8) tried to weave their way around the forest of Red Devil bodies but couldn't find any room. With Craig hitting on either end of the floor -- he swatted HKT's last first-half shot -- the Trojans were done as soon as the 18-point deficit glared at them from the halftime scoreboard.

Craig had three of Great Falls' eight blocked shots and led the team in rebounding as well. The Devils almost doubled HKT's boards (39-20), and, although big men Josh Lynn and Nate Nelson were in foul trouble most of the second half, never got in a disadvantage in the post.

"We've played plenty of people who were smaller than us," Craig said. "We knew we had to keep the ball up."

Playing in front of a mostly home crowd, made up of loyal fans who made the short drive to Richland Northeast High School, the Red Devils never trailed and were only tied once (6-6). From there, led by Craig, they spurted ahead by getting at least one offensive board on every missed shot in the second quarter.

An 18-11 deficit after one period stretched to 39-21 at the half. Smith was able to substitute liberally in the second half, and all but three Devils scored.

Great Falls improved to a stellar 25-1 and got ready for Saturday's meeting with Landrum. Smith said the early game time is a slight concern, but so are the opponents, whom the Devils have not played this year.

"At that time of day, on a Saturday, that biological clock starts ticking," Smith joked. "We're going to have to wake up early."

Craig deferred on any predictions, saying the Devils haven't talked about reaching state. It may be expected at such a traditionally strong program, but Great Falls' motto all season has been to just win the next game.

"We'll find out about (Landrum) in practice (today)," Craig said. "We'll just have to find out if we're ready on Saturday."

Related content