By Stephen Smoot
In the postseason, experience matters. Great teams struggle for the win and bring their best. East Hardy brought a team laden with upperclassmen to Franklin last week. The stakes were high, the opportunity to compete in the state tournament in Charleston was on the line.
Pendleton County controlled the tip off and roared in the opening minutes. Jacob Beachler stole a pass, starting a fast break that ended in a Clayton Kisamore layup at the other end. Josiah Kimble then took a steal of his own and buried a three with 6:09 left in the first quarter.
East Hardy applied a full court man-to-man press to disrupt the Wildcats. They took a steal in for a layup to cut the lead to 5-2. Chase Owens answered by taking an offensive rebound up for a score and a 7-2 lead. The Cougars hit a three with 4:34 left in the quarter. Kimble answered 20 seconds later with his own three.
Throughout the first half, East Hardy owned a hot hand. They hit a number of deep shots, many contested.
Kisamore hit a three-pointer of his own with 2:28 that tied the game at 13. He duplicated the effort with 48 seconds left and followed that with a baseline drive for a layup that put his team up 18-13 at the end of the first.
East Hardy quickly tied the game back up in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Kisamore put his team on his back and tried to will them to victory through the rest of the game. After the Cougars tied the score with a three, Kisamore drove to the basket and hit a hook shot to put the lead back at two. East Hardy shortly thereafter took the lead with a three. Kisamore took it right back at the 5:04 mark when he again attacked the basket and scored.
The problem lay in Pendleton County hitting twos while East Hardy kept hitting threes. A layup at the end of the half gave the Cougars a 36-29 advantage.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats gave full effort to cut into the East Hardy lead. Kisamore drove to the basket and drew a foul, hitting one of two free throws. Owens then hit a three-pointer followed by a Beachler blocked shot. Dusty Smith hit two free throws at the 3:21 mark with Kisamore scoring on a reverse layup at the 2:54 mark to set the score at a 44-37 East Hardy lead. Kisamore hit Beachler on a lob that scored a layup to cut the lead to five.
For every Pendleton County challenge against the lead, East Hardy had an answer. They took steals at pivotal opportunities. Every long range shot seemed to answer a Wildcat big play. By the end of the third quarter, East Hardy had added two points to their lead, setting it at 50-41.
East Hardy drew first blood in the fourth quarter with a steal and a made seven-foot shot. Owens then hit Beachler with a pass that led to a made shot. The game remained close until almost the very end. Kisamore hit a three to pull his team within six with a minute to play. Then Pendleton County had to foul the Cougars to extend the game. East Hardy made their shots, setting the final at 74-60.
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