By Stephen Smoot
In science, the concept is called a “control.” A control shows a point of comparison from which the observer can determine facts. This can take the form of a reaction or to demonstrate a change over time.
Pendleton County played Tucker County on the road in the team’s opener. In the first match up the Wildcats stayed with their opponent through the first half, only trailing by 11 at the break. The Mountain Lions then delivered a knockout punch in the third quarter that sent the visiting team reeling, winning the game 68 to 28.
Last week, the top team in West Virginia class A made the trip off the mountain to face a still young, but much more seasoned Wildcat squad.
The Mountain Lions took the opening tip and executed well on their initial possession, scoring a layup 17 seconds into the game. More than a minute later, Cashton Kisamore blocked the first of several shots on the night. It led to a possession where Wyatt Franklin chased down an offensive rebound, and hit a shot to tie the game at two. Two minutes after, Chase Owens hit a three-point shot to put his team up 5-4.
In the first quarter, Tucker County used a one-three-one zone that helped to open shot opportunities from the deep corners for Pendleton County shooters. Owens alone hit a trio of three-pointers.
With eight seconds left in the first stanza, Josiah Kimble pump faked, shook his man, dribbled in and drilled a shot from the foul line extended to knot the game at 18. Tucker County, however, answered with a three to lead at the end of the quarter.
Kimble opened the second quarter by taking a pass from Franklin and hitting a three at the 7:30 mark. Tucker County abandoned the zone for the remainder of the game, trying to shut down the Wildcats’ outside shooting. Wildcat guards found avenues to drive, getting around defenders and finding opportunities closer to the basket.
Tucker County looked for shots near the basket with excellent interior passing using their motion offense, but also shot consistently well from three when they found openings. They hit one to pull ahead 24-21 at the 6:26 point, but Franklin soon after poked a rebound away from an opponent, had it returned to him by a teammate, and hit a layup. Extra efforts like this from Pendleton County players often led to big plays at crucial times.
With nearly four minutes remaining in the half, a Kimble pass reached the hands of Zykijah Wright, who made a move, hit a shot, and pulled his team within one. Almost 40 seconds later, Kisamore blocked a shot, which Kimble picked up, drove cross court to the right post, then fired back to Owens on the left wing.
The Pendleton County crowd erupted when Owens completed the play with a three, giving his team the lead 32-30.
In the last seconds of the half, the Wildcats took a 36-33 lead when Dusty Smith drove, pulled up, and hit a shot from eight feet. The Mountain Lions cut the lead to one with 29 seconds left on a layup. Wright broke up one last chance Tucker County had to score by intercepting a length of the court pass.
Pendleton County came out confident in the third quarter. Only 20 seconds into the quarter, Kisamore knocked the ball away from a Mountain Lion player. Smith caught it and fired the pass back to Kisamore for a layup and a 38-35 lead, quickly followed by a Tucker County layup
For almost two minutes, neither team could score. Kimble with a little less than six minutes left in the quarter exploded past his man and took an open lane to a layup and a 40-37 lead. A minute later, Tucker County took the lead back with a three-point shot. From that point through the end of the quarter, the Mountain Lions scored 13 to Pendleton County’s five and took a 55-45 advantage.
The lead remained around 10 until the 3:28 point. Kisamore made a post move and laid the ball in shortly after that, followed by a Bradey Bowers steal. With 1:12 left in the game, Smith passed outside to Owens who hit a three to pull the Wildcats to a 65-60 disadvantage. Tucker County, however, took advantage of intentional fouls made to extend the game, hitting enough free throws to give themselves a 72-60 win.
The progression of the game showed why Tucker County earned the top ranking. They play aggressively, but with discipline, patience, and good execution. The team enjoys upper class leadership and ample height. Pendleton County pushed them hard, but Tucker executed when it mattered.
Even though a loss, the game did serve as a control. With a minute left in the December game, the Wildcats had absorbed a significant defeat. With a minute left in the game last week, Pendleton County had a shot to win the game.
And Tucker County had done nothing but improve in the meantime, but so had the home team.
Owens led the Wildcats with 21, including six three-point shots. Kimble followed with 18. Franklin and Kisamore each scored six, Smith five, and Wright and Bowers two a piece.