Basketball Team wins Sectional Championship
Michael Kearney and Kyle Appel came off the bench to combine for 40 points in the Region II, Section II title game against Keyser on Friday, March 2, in Berkeley Springs, enabling the Indians to overcome a slow start to defeat the Golden Tornado, 63-46, and claim their first sectional championship since 2005.
"If we don't have Michael or Kyle, either of them, we don't win this game," said Berkeley Springs Coach Jeremy Horvat. “Those two put us in a position to win the game. It is luxury to have guys that can come in off the bench and be so productive. It seems like each game we have a different hero and that is the way we like it. It makes it tough for teams to scout and defend us. Take one guy away and someone else burns you. Of course this would not work if we had a selfish team. We don't. They play and pull for one another and that is one of the reasons for our success in the back half of our season."
Richard Recio got the Indians on the board with a pair of free throws two minutes and 30 seconds into the game to tie the score at 2-2, but Keyser went on a 7-0 run to take a 9-2 lead with just 1:05 remaining in the first stanza. A little over seven minutes into the game, Berkeley Springs finally scored a field goal, when Kearney hit from behind the three point arc, cutting Keyser's lead to 9-5 after the opening quarter of play.
Both teams struggled at the beginning of the second quarter, before Kearney broke the ice with his second three-point goal of the game, cutting Keyser's lead to a single point, 9-8. Keyser scored the next three points, before Kearney scored again, to bring the Tribe within two points of their Mineral County foe, 12-10.
Twelve minutes into the game and the Indians only had three baskets - all from Kearney, but still trailed by just a deuce. They weren't pleased with the way they were playing offensively, but happy to be so close to the lead.
"About halfway through the second quarter I turned to Coach Kase (Ben) and said that if we can stay within five at the half we would be in good shape," Horvat said. “Thanks to the efforts of Kyle and Michael we ended the quarter on a run and took a lead into the half."
A free throw by Kaleb Athey, a three point play by Appel, followed by a three-point shot from Kearney gave the Indians their first lead of the game, 17-16, with 1:36 remaining in the opening half.
Apple extended the lead to four points when he connected from behind the arc, Kearney hit a pair of free throws and Apple connected on one of two from the foul line, and the Indians went to the intermission with a five point lead, 23-18.
Kearney and Appel combined for 21 of Berkeley Springs 23 first-half points.
"Keyser made it tough for us to get the ball inside during the first half," said Horvat. They really packed in their 2-3 zone and they had the length and size to make it difficult for us to score in the paint. We knew we had to get the lead to get them out of the zone and play our style. That's what happened in the second half."
Brady Spielman became the first starter to make a bucket when he took the ball hard to the basket early in the second half to break a 24-24 tie. Jared Spielman followed up with a steal that he converted into an easy bucket, followed by a pair of three point baskets by Zach Wise and Derrick Cowles to give the Tribe a 34-26 advantage. Appel then scored the next six points, followed by a fast break basket by Kaleb Athey and another bucket by Brady Spielman to give the Indians their biggest lead of the night, 44-31. with 30 seconds remaining in the third. Keyser scored a late bucket, but the Indians still had extended their lead to 44-33 as the third quarter buzzer sounded.
Still leading by 11 points, 54-43, with just under four minutes to play, Appel went on a personal 7-1 run that put the game out of reach for the visiting Golden Tornado.
The two teams traded the final points of the game and the Indians celebrated their 13th win and, more importantly, a sectional championship.
Appel and Kearney led Berkeley Springs with 20 points each, Brady Spielman added six, Recio, four, Zach Wise, Derrick Cowles and Athey three each, while Dylan Whipple and Jared Spielman scored two points apiece.
Brandon Clay paced Keyser with 13 points.
"We're excited; It hasn't happened in a while,” Horvat said of the sectional title. “There is definitely a buzz in the air. It was a great atmosphere for these kids to play in front of the crowd. Hopefully we can get the same kind of support when we host Lincoln on March 8."
Lincoln, Berkeley Springs upcoming opponent, has a less than impressive 6-19 record, but Horvat knows that is somewhat deceptive.
"Lincoln has played a lot of Class AAA opponents," said Horvat. “It would be like us having multiple games with Hedgesville, Martinsburg, Hampshire and other AAA teams in the area. So you can't overlook this team simply because of their record. They already have one huge upset in the postseason (Lincoln beat Braxton County on the road in the sectional semifinals) and anyone who overlooks them could face the same fate."
The Indians will host Lincoln at 7 p.m. tomorrow, March 8, with the winner advancing to next week’s Class AA state tournament.