By Stephen Smoot
Just one night after Pendleton County struggled late against Moorefield, the Wildcats put together a statement game against the Union Tigers to close out competition in the oldest high school basketball tournament in the Mountain State.
Union came in with losses to Harman and Petersburg on their record. While they have some size at the power forward and center positions, the Tigers elected to counter the height of the Wildcats with a small lineup. This gave Union’s players the Herculean task of finding answers against Pendleton County’s skilled ballhandlers and athletic post players.
The Wildcats controlled the opening tip and Union started the game in a packed 2-3 zone, daring Pendleton County to try and win with outside shots. Pendleton County all night long refused to walk the path suggested, instead scoring their first basket on an entry pass to Clayton Kisamore at the low post. Jacob Beachler scored the next point with a free throw after being fouled near the basket, putting his team up 3-0 with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
Pendleton County methodically built their lead while playing suffocating defense across the entire court, employing a full court trapping press. On offense they exercised discipline in making extra passes to find open players. Chase Owens hit a three pointer to double the lead to 6-0 with 3:57 left in the quarter. Beachler 20 seconds later decisively made a post move to beat a Tiger triple team and complete a soft layup.
The last four minutes of the quarter saw the Wildcats surge offensively, scoring 12 points to Union’s four. Quick defense by the Wildcats created more scoring opportunities and Pendleton County seized the advantage. Josiah Kimble with 3:25 left swiped the ball and coasted in for a layup to put his team up 10-0. At two minutes to play, Connor Armentrout laid the ball in to extend the lead to 14-2. As the quarter ran down, with Coach Jeremy Bodkin exhorting his team to use “patience,” the team found Kisamore for yet another short-range bucket.
Dustin Vandevander started second quarter scoring in dramatic fashion, sinking a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 21-4. Tiger frustrations boiled over with only two minutes gone in the second when Kisamore stumbled on his way to yet another layup. The Union coach disputed the lack of a traveling violation and earned a technical foul.
Patience on offense and effort on defense continued to pay off for the Wildcats. With 4:17 left in the quarter, Dusty Smith executed a nifty head fake to evade a defender before driving to the basket for a layup, increasing the lead to 31-6. Brayden Beachler shortly thereafter wrestled an offensive rebound away from a Tiger and laid the ball in. In a play proving that lady luck sat on the Wildcat side that night, Kisamore at the 3:04 mark used an Evan Teter assist to bank in a three-point shot. Teter joined the scoring column on an assist from Brayden Beachler. Dillon Smith tracked down a rebound with 30 seconds left that set up another deep Kimble 3-pointer. The first half closed with a Kisamore free throw putting the Wildcats up 43-8.
Though Bodkin substituted freely the entire game and called off the press for the most part, Union never gained traction on offense. In a remarkable team performance, Pendleton County shut out the Tigers mostly using their base man-to-man half court defense for the entire third quarter. Union kept seeking answers to the onslaught, deploying a press in the second half that did little to slow the Wildcats.
Armentrout showed the instincts that made him a star in the football team’s defensive backfield, using his long arms and quickness to snag a steal and break up passes. Scoring in the third quarter closed as Brayden Beachler scored inside to put Pendleton County up 66-8.
Though reserves played much of the fourth quarter, they continued the patient and disciplined approach in finding open shots. Dillon Smith hit a 10-footer with 5:52 left to play, followed by a Cashton Kisamore layup a minute and a half later to preserve the 60-point lead. Zykijah Wright entered the game full of fight. In the last five minutes, he ripped an offensive rebound away from his opponent, blocked an outside shot into the stands, and, to the delight of the supportive traveling Wildcat student section, nailed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in the game. A Union bucket made the final score 76-15.
Pendleton County played Pocahontas County on Jan. 3 with results not available at press time. The team enjoys a 10-day break before hosting Harman on Jan 13.
Scoring: Clayton Kisamore 16, Kimble 15, Owens 8, Vandevander 7, Jacob Beachler 6, Dusty Smith 6, Armentrout 4, Cashton Kisamore 3, Wright 3, Dillon Smith 2, Teter 2