By Stephen Smoot
Rivalries entertain because they force fans to toss aside every objective measure by which one would expect one team to dominate or defeat another. Moorefield has struggled this year, their main highlight an upset win over Pendleton County at Franklin. Overall, however, they went 4-14 on the season, defeated decisively by the Wildcats earlier this month 59-29.
What Moorefield lacks in offensive punch; however, they supplement with toughness and effort. This makes them a tough out with almost a deceptive record. Last week, they brought playoff intensity to their contest against Pendleton County in their home venue.
Pendleton County controlled the tipoff and set to work. Both teams brought high energy to defense initially and it took two and a half minutes for the first score. This came on a Jacob Beachler layup after an offensive rebound. Moorefield responded with a layup of their own, countered by the now quite familiar sight of Chase Owens stealing the ball, driving to the hoop, and scoring on a fast break to give his team a 6-2 lead with 3:12 left in the quarter.
The emergence of Owens as a solid triple threat on offense, defense, and rebounding has helped to solidify Pendleton County as a contender. His relentless energy in all three phases has made him likely one of the best freshmen varsity players in the state.
Shortly after Owens scored, Beachler inadvertently tipped in a score for Moorefield. In a statistic that reveals just how dominant the Wildcat defense can get, this was the second game in a row in which Beachler has accounted for half of the points scored for the other team in a quarter. In both games, Frankfort and Moorefield only scored four in that quarter of play.
After the tip in, Josiah Kimble and Dusty Smith demonstrated teamwork and skill. Kimble hit a three at the 2:32 mark. Twenty seconds later, both Smith and Kimble dove to the floor to steal the ball, a hustle play that led to a Clayton Kisamore layup at the other end, extending the lead to 11-4. Smith and Kimble teamed up on yet another steal with 1:27 left, right after a Smith three-point goal. That ended scoring in the first quarter 13-4.
The two hard-nosed guards, Smith and Kimble, prevent even more big plays than they create. Pendleton County relies on Smith’s steady hand at point guard to protect the ball and set the pace. Kimble is one of his team’s most dangerous outside shooters, but also racks up steals. Both players worked hard to neutralize much taller guards in the Frankfort game
The second quarter opened with a Beachler hook shot. Over the course of the season, he has expanded his repertoire of offensive moves from both the post and on dribble drives while using his long arms to disrupt more passes and gain steals. He has grown into a multi-dimensional threat who has the potential to grow into a consistently dominant player.
Kisamore also made big plays in the second. He hit a three-point shot with 5:27 to give his team a 20-6 lead, then two minutes later drove into the paint for a layup, drawing a foul in the process. Defenders struggle to keep up with his quickness on drives and his height close to the basket. He can adjust shots in mid-flight close to the hoop to draw fouls or get past defenders.
Toward the end of the second quarter, Moorefield briefly tried a full court press. This mainly had the effect of giving Wildcat players more space to move and make plays. At the 1:15 mark, Kisamore softly banked a shot in to push the lead to 27-13. Beachler closed scoring in the half at 29-15 with a layup at 25 seconds left.
The third quarter saw Pendleton County striving to extend the lead, but seeing the Yellow Jackets successfully stay within striking distance. Moorefield tried to work the ball inside, but Beachler not only blocked multiple shots, but came up with steals as well. At the 4:44 mark, he dunked the ball, drew a foul, and hit the free throw for the old fashioned three-point play.
In relief of the starting center, Connor Armentrout stood tall. He fought for rebounds and blocked a shot with 32 seconds left. Moorefield hit shots to slice into the lead and cut it to 13. Then, with time ticking away, Armentrout took a pass down low and scored a layup. In recent weeks, his athleticism has helped the team on defense, especially.
In the first two minutes and two seconds of the fourth, Beachler had two steals, a block, and a layup, but Yellow Jacket scores kept the Wildcat advantage at 13. Kisamore played a key role in helping to put the game away. He hit a six-foot shot at 4:33 to push the lead back out to 15, then a minute later scored again close to the hoop. Kisamore’s defense also helped to prevent Moorefield from even finding open shots. He hit a layup with 1:38 left to nail shut any chance of a Yellow Jacket comeback.
Evan Teter closed scoring for his team in the game with a jump shot from 15 feet. Moorefield hit a three, however, with 55 seconds left to set the final at 55-40.