By Stephen Smoot
The sports media elite love to discuss “signature wins” that make a statement about the progress of a program. To them, only upset victories or defeats of the biggest and best count.
But other times, a team makes a statement in a win that shows how far it has come, as well as its potential to do even better in the future. The Wildcats made such a statement against a very good squad of Tygarts Valley Bulldogs.
Tygarts Valley brought a team with height, strength, athleticism, and discipline. They also have a tremendous asset in the fiery head coach Tom Wamsley whose 42 years of experience always makes them a tough out.
Pendleton County head coach Jeremy Bodkin noted, “He’s been there a long time, even when I was still playing. He does a great job.”
The Wildcats owned the opening tip, but the Bulldogs swiped the ball and immediately drew a foul. They missed the first two free throws, but grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a layup to take the early lead.
All night long, Bulldog athletes found a way to get rebounds in key situations and turn them into big plays.
Cashton Kisamore put the Wildcats on the board first with a post move and layup. Chase Owens quickly followed with a layup of his own at the 6:27 mark. Tygarts Valley retook the lead 30 seconds later with a layup. Kisamore then grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in to give his team a 6-5 advantage, kicking off a 16 to five run over the remainder of the quarter.
Although Pendleton County kept the lead the rest of the way, the Bulldogs kept bringing the fight to the home team. For most of the night, the Wildcats would extend the lead to between seven and 12 points, only to see Tygarts Valley battle and close the gap.
Pendleton County started the second quarter with a 20-10 lead, but the Bulldogs buried a three-point shot only 10 seconds in. A free throw, a three-point shot, and a layup drew them within one at nearly the six minute mark. Three point makes by Josiah Kimble (from 21 feet away) and Henry Warner helped to push the lead back to nine with a little less than three minutes to play in the half.
After Tygarts Valley pulled to within six, Zykijah Wright, who played strong in the post all night, took an offensive rebound and scored to set the lead at 33-24. With 23 seconds left, a Kimble three gave Pendleton County a 12-point advantage, but a last second Tygarts Valley three sent their crowd into a celebratory frenzy and put the score at 41-32.
After the half, Coach Wamsley adjusted his defense to take away the Wildcats’ outside shooting. His outside players stuck close to Pendleton County’s shooters wherever they went. Bodkin also noted that Tygarts Valley unveiled a one two two full court press that his squad had not seen from the Bulldogs prior.
Pendleton County’s guards adjusted well to the tight defense, using their quickness and ball handling to break down the defense and score more shots close to the basket. At the 7:10 mark, an Owens pass found Wright for a layup. Shortly after, Kimble drove to the 10-foot mark, pulled up and drained a shot. Next, Dusty Smith blew by his man and had a wide open lane to a layup. He gave his team a 47-35 lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
On offense, the Bulldogs tried to isolate one of their taller and bigger guards on Smith. They posted him up on Smith over and over to get shots close to the basket, but Smith battled him stoutly.
At the 3:42 mark, a Tygarts Valley defender collided hard with a Pendleton County player, knocking him to the floor. Without hesitation the Bulldog player helped him up, showing good sportsmanship in a very tightly contested game that Tygarts Valley desperately fought to win.
Both teams showed incredible patience on the offensive end, attacking the defense with deft passing and good ball handling. The main difference lay in that Wildcat shooters hit their marks more accurately than Tygarts Valley.
Tygarts Valley made a final push in the last minutes of the third and opening of the fourth. They tried to take advantage of Bodkin giving each of his main starting ball handlers significant rest, one at a time, before the last minutes of the contest. Jaydon Hess stepped in to give vital minutes, handling the ball and playing strong defense.
With one minute left, the Bulldogs hit a 10-foot jump shot, then followed that with a layup with 10 seconds in the quarter to set the score at 56-49.
A minute into the fourth, the visiting squad cut the lead to five with a layup. Pendleton County then went on a 10 to two run over the next two minutes and 20 seconds. One of the key plays was a technical foul called on a Bulldog – key because the officials called the game more closely for the duration to keep the game under control, taking away some of the aggressive play of Tygarts Valley defenders.
At this point, Pendleton County made their statement.
Both teams went into the final minutes exhausted, fighting for the win with great effort. Great teams in such situations find that higher gear and shift into it. They don’t play as if hoping for the game to end to seal the win, but go even harder after the other team to keep them from rising from the canvas after being knocked down.
At the 3:30 mark, Pendleton County did their 80s Lakers “Showtime” impression, using a pretty set of three passes to find Wright under the basket for a layup, to the delight of the home crowd. With 2:30 left, the Wildcats led by 16, but their opponents maintained their intensity as if they only trailed by one.
Pendleton County maintained their pressure. Justus Kuykendall shut down the Bulldogs’ last hopes with a three with 1:36 left that put the score at 77-60. Caleb Armentrout closed scoring with a free throw to give his team a 78-60 win.
Kimble led the Wildcats with 20 points, including five three-point shots. Smith followed closely behind with 17, on seven of nine shooting from the field. Owens added 15, Kisamore 11, Wright six, Warner five, Kuykendall three, and Armentrout one. Wyatt Franklin, Bradey Bowers, and Hess brought fierce intensity to the defense.
The win served as a solid rebound from the tough loss against Petersburg earlier in the week. In the 69-64 setback, Owens led with 23 followed by Kimble with 19, Smith with eight, Kisamore and Bowers with four, and Wright and Warner each scored three.
Pendleton County hosted Tucker County and traveled to 10 and five Paw Paw, but both games were played after publication of this week’s edition. They travel to East Hardy tonight and to Moorefield for a Friday night rivalry showdown. Next week, the Wildcats travel to Harman on Monday, host East Hardy on Feb. 8 and Paw Paw on Feb. 10.