By Stephen Smoot
The Tygarts Valley Bulldogs traveled to Franklin last week in hopes of overcoming their biggest obstacle all year. While they posted a strong record with a skilled team, Pendleton County always managed to stay at arms’ length ahead during the regular season despite the Bulldogs’ scrappy play. This game would be no different.
Tygarts Valley took the opening tipoff, but turned the ball over 12 seconds later due to outstanding defense by Josiah Kimble. With their opening possession, Jacob Beachler took an offensive rebound and laid it in for the first score.
Tygarts Valley was ready for the occasionally dominant Beachler. They brought post players with height, quickness, and, most important, brute physical force. Throughout the game, the Bulldogs attacked the post. They backed Beachler into the post, then used their quickness to make post moves and take high percentage shots near the basket.
On defense, the Bulldogs extended past the three-point line, trying to disrupt the Pendleton County outside shooters.
The first quarter saw the Wildcats slowly building a lead despite the Bulldogs’ energy and active defense. Chase Owens delivered big plays on both ends of the court in the opening stanza. Halfway through, he took a steal all the way to the basket, laid it in, and put his team up 12-3. Beachler followed that up with his own fast break layup.
Owens then hit two threes in quick succession at the 2:07 and 1:27 marks, respectively. Kimble then hit a layup with 38 seconds left that set the quarter score at 22-12.
From the beginning of the second quarter, Clayton Kisamore put on a show. He opened scoring for his team at the 7:22 mark with a layup. A Dusty Smith three-point shot extended the lead to 29-14. After that, Kisamore drove the lane, split two defenders, and scored a layup.
Though Tygarts Valley contained the Wildcats’ outside shooters, they left space for Pendleton County players to work. Kisamore, Owens, and Kimble in particular used lanes to attack the basket all night. Beachler used his quickness to find opportunities to hit running hook bank shots over the heads of the tall Bulldog defenders.
The Bulldogs then went on a run, starting at the 5:34 mark. They scored seven to the Wildcats’ two in a three- minute span. At the 2:02 mark, they cut a 17-point lead to 12. Beachler then beat three players to score a layup. Kisamore followed that with a three pointer, and the halftime score was 42-25. That pattern continued in the second half. The Bulldogs would claw away at the lead, gain a little momentum, then Pendleton County would surge back ahead.
The Bulldogs returned to attacking Beachler at the post with a Tygarts Valley post player bullying his way to the post and scoring a layup. Thirty seconds later, at the 6:16 mark, they hit a three. With almost 5:30 left in the quarter, they cut the lead to 10 with a layup. Kimble answered, however, driving past three defenders and hitting a close shot.
Owens followed with a steal and a coast-to-coast drive for a layup. Tygarts Valley tried to answer with a baseline shot, but Beachler skied to swat the shot well out of bounds. When at the 2:35 mark, Owens beat three defenders on a drive to the hoop, the Wildcat lead was elevated to 48-33.
Tygarts Valley never seemed out of the game. Though they could score in bunches, they could not shoot consistently as well as the home team.
Pendleton County opened the fourth with a tenuous 51-39 lead, but Kisamore helped to break the game wide open. He hit a layup at about the five-minute mark, then scored again after a Smith steal to push the lead to 60-43. One of his most physically impressive plays didn’t even involve a score. He dove on the floor to steal a ball, tipped the ball, hustled after it, gained control, dribbled up the floor, and drew a foul.
Then, with almost 2:30 left, Kisamore took a steal the length of the floor and scored, putting the lead at 64-45. Tygarts Valley scored again, but never threatened. Brady Bowers and Dustin Vandevander ended the game by combining on a steal. The final score was 67-50 with the last point coming from a Smith free throw.
Pendleton County will play against East Hardy at 7 p.m. today by virtue of their loss to Tucker County. The Wildcats, should they defeat East Hardy, will advance to the state tournament in three consecutive years.
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