Indians hold on for third consecutive Region II, Section II title
With six minutes and 40 seconds remaining in their sectional championship game against Frankfort, in Berkeley Springs on Thursday, March 1, the Indians held a 14-point lead, 45-31. However, the Falcons went on a furious run and tied the game at 47-47 with 2:34 remaining in regulation, before Berkeley Springs reasserted themselves and pulled away for a 58-51 victory and the opportunity to play Petersburg in the Region II championship game tonight, March 7, at East Hardy High School.
"We had things under control and kind of let it get away," said Berkeley Springs coach Chad Brinegar. "But, our kids settled down and pulled out the victory. Keeping their composure like that at the end of the game says a lot."
After the first quarter of action, it appeared as though it would be a low scoring affair with the game tied at seven apiece. Berkeley Springs opened the scoring when Nathan Sirbaugh made a three-point shot, giving the Tribe a 3-0 advantage. After a Frankfort miss, Berkeley Springs decided to pull the ball out and force Frankfort to come out of their zone. It looked like a 1970s North Carolina game for the next several minutes, as the ball was passed around without a shot being taken. Finally, the Indians got the ball into center Robbie Williams who converted to give Berkeley Springs a 5-0 lead at the 3:25 mark of the opening quarter.
Frankfort raced the ball down the court on their ensuing offensive possession, scoring their first points of the game with 3:18 remaining in the quarter to cut the lead to 5-2. Frankfort made a three-point shot of their own to tie the game at 5-5 before the two teams traded baskets in the final seconds to deadlock the game at 7-7 heading into the second quarter of action.
Frankfort opened the quarter with a two-point bucket to grab their first lead of the game, before Williams converted an offensive rebound, tying the game once more. The Indians stayed hot with LJ Wright canning a pair of three-point bombs sandwiched between two-point buckets from Nathan Sirbaugh and Sammy Trump. However, the Falcons matched the Tribe point-for-point and had the game tied 19-19 with 1:24 remaining in the half.
The Indians then went on an 8-0 run, capped by a half-court shot by Wright at the buzzer, to take a 27-19 lead into the half-time intermission.
"We gained some momentum at the end of the first half," Brinegar said. "When you can carry that kind of momentum into the locker room, it never hurts anything. The shot by LJ really ignited the crowd."
Williams converted a pretty pass, on a backdoor cut, from Sammy Trump to open the second half, extending the Indian lead to 29-19, before Frankfort went on an 8-0 run, cutting the lead to two points. However, Foster Sirbaugh buried three, three-point bombs and Wright one to stretch the lead back to 10 points, 41-31. Wright then scored a two-point basket as the quarter ended, giving Berkeley Springs its biggest lead of the night 43-31.
Trump scored on the inside to open the fourth quarter, extending the Indian lead to 14 points, 45-31, before Frankfort rallied to tie the game at 47-47. With the game tied, Berkeley Springs hit one of two free throws on four consecutive possessions to gain a little breathing room, 51-47. Trump then made it a six-point lead converting two free throws, before Foster Sirbaugh sealed the victory by making five of six free throws down the stretch.
"It was a hard fought win," Brinegar said. "They had beaten us twice during the regular season, but we knew we could play with them. We just had to play better defense and be more patient. I think we were able to do that tonight and that is why we won."
Berkeley Springs was led by Wright and Foster Sirbaugh, who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. Robbie Williams added nine points, while Trump and Nathan Sirbaugh rounded out the offense with seven points each.
Brandon House led the Falcons with 21 points.
House and teammate Dean Dayton joined Foster Sirbaugh, Trump and Wright on the All-Tournament team.
Now the attention turns to Petersburg and the opportunity to return to Charleston and the "Big Dance" for the second time in three years. It won't be easy though as the Vikings currently have a record of 19-4 and are ranked among the top 10 teams in West Virginia Class AA.
Though Petersburg will offer a stern test, Brinegar believes the Indians match up better with the Vikings than they would have against Keyser. Petersburg defeated Keyser in their Region II, Section I final.
"We definitely match up better with Petersburg," Brinegar said. "We took Petersburg to the wire in the regular season. In fact we were tied with 45 seconds remaining before Petersburg outscored us at the end for a 68-63 win. In order for us to win the regional title we must be patient and execute on offense, while slowing down Petersburg's transition game, stopping the dribble penetration and slowing down their perimeter game. They have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball and they like to take it to the basket and kick it out, if no shot is available. We will be prepared and hopefully we will execute."
Don't book your reservations just yet, but stay close to the phone and have your credit card handy because the 12-11 Indians have a wonderful opportunity to advance.