Indians earn a trip to Charleston
In front of a large enthusiastic crowd, the Berkeley Springs High School Boys’ Basketball Team beat Lincoln High School in the West Virginia Class AA Region II final on Thursday, March 8, in Berkeley Springs.
The Indians utilized a smothering defense, a strong inside presence and deadly shooting from behind the three-point arch to overwhelm the visiting Cougars, 67-45, and secure a spot in the Class AA field of eight at the 2012 West Virginia High School State Basketball Tournament.
"This was a fantastic atmosphere for a high school basketball game," said Berkeley Springs Coach Jeremy Horvat. “The gym was packed and both sides were represented well. The crowd was really into the game and they were loud. I thought our guys really had a fantastic night. They didn't back down one inch and responded every time that Lincoln made a run. This team - and I really want to emphasize the word team - has really improved through effort and hard work. They were sitting at 4-9 and could have packed it in. But, they kept believing, and turned things around, winning 10 of their final 12 games. The team really gelled and much of the credit has to go to my assistant coaches, Ben Kase and Mike Burks. Coach Kase, in particular, can be credited with tonight's win. He studied a lot of film and really put this game plan into effect. We wouldn't be where we are without the contributions from Coach Kase and Coach Burks."
The Indians didn't score until the 5:34 mark of the opening period, but once they started to find the range it was curtains for their Harrison County foe.
Derrick Cowles scored Berkeley Springs first six points, giving the Indians a 6-2 lead that they would never relinquish. Cowles got things started with a basket in the paint, made one of two free throws and then buried a three, before Lincoln scored their second field goal of the game to cut the margin to two points. The Indians scored the next five points to take an 11-4 lead before a late bucket by Lincoln's Brandon Fazalare brought the Cougars to within five points of the Tribe, 11-6.
Brady Spielman took over to begin the second quarter. The talented senior made a strong move on the baseline for two, and scored three more times on the inside, sandwiched around a three-point bucket by Michael Kearney, giving the Tribe a 22-8 lead. Moments later, Zach Wise stepped in front of a Cougar pass and drove in for an uncontested layup to cap off a 13-2 run and give the Indians a commanding 24-8 lead with 2:15 left in the opening half.
Lincoln scored the next three points, but Wise quickly neutralized the damage with a three-point bomb, Richard Recio scored on the inside and Kearney hit another three, to give Berkeley a 32-13 lead with 10 seconds remaining. Lincoln quickly moved the ball down court and got an old fashioned three-point play and then scored off a turnover at the buzzer to close the gap to 32-18 at the intermission.
The Cougars continued the run after the break and closed to within nine of the Indians lead, 32-23, with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter. At the same time, Brady Spielman picked up his third foul and joined teammate Jared Spielman, who only seconds before had been whistled for his third personal, on the Indian bench.
With two starters out of the lineup things were looking up for Lincoln, but back-to-back buckets from Cowles pushed Berkeley's lead back to 13, 36-23. The Cougars scored to cut Berkeley Springs margin to 11, but a three-point shot by Wise, a basket by Kyle Appel and a bucket on the inside by Recio put the Indians on top 43-28 with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.
With time running down on the third-quarter clock, Kaleb Athey penetrated into the paint and kicked the ball out to Wise who buried a three-point shot at the buzzer that brought the home crowd to their feet and gave the Indians a comfortable 18 point lead, 46-28, with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Lincoln got to within 12 points of the Indians early in the final quarter, but a pair of three-pointers by Cowles, and one each by Wise and Matt Walters, along with strong play on the inside by Brady Spielman and Recio lifted Berkeley Springs to the 22 point victory and their first trip to Charleston, since 2005.
Wise, Cowles and Brady Spielman paced the Tribe with 16, 15 and 13 points, respectively. Kearney added nine points, Recio seven, Appel four and Walters three.
Colton Burr led the Cougars with a game-high 21 points.
"I thought our defense really stepped up again," Horvat said. “The defense has been solid most of the year, but really good in the postseason. I think the most points we’ve allowed in the postseason is 46, and that speaks for itself. The defensive effort was outstanding."
The 14-11 Indians, seeded eighth in the Class AA field, will face top seeded Bluefield (24-1) at 5:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, March 14, at the Charleston Civic Center.
"It is a challenge, but that’s to be expected when you get to the state tournament," said Horvat. “We are going to prepare and I know that these guys will give it their all. The effort will not be lacking. If we can control our nerves, get a couple of stops on defense and some offense early in the game, you never know. We are going into the game as underdogs, but we aren't going to concede anything."
Bluefield has an impressive resume, including a pair of wins over Wyoming East. The Beavers only loss was to arch rival Princeton, 53-51; one they avenged later in the year.
If the Indians defeat Bluefield they will face either Tolsia or Magnoila at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 16.