By Stephen Smoot
Tygarts Valley has lived up to its name in boys’ basketball this year. On their way to a 10-8 record, they gave Pendleton County a tough time in their home venue, only losing by 10. Last Monday, they brought a seasoned squad to Franklin to take a bite out of the Wildcats’ plans to finish strong going into sectional play.
Tygarts Valley barely contested the tipoff, which went to the Wildcats. Both teams started the contest in the same fashion. Pendleton County played as they have much of the year, running their sets to find good shots and using stout defense to create fast break opportunities. It took 30 seconds for the offense to get the ball to the recently hot handed Josiah Kimble. He promptly put his team up first with an assist from Dusty Smith.
The first quarter saw more action than scoring. Tygarts Valley answered Kimble with a three-pointer at the 6:50 mark. The teams traded possessions until almost two and a half minutes later when the Bulldogs hit a hook shot in the lane to go up 5-3. Jacob Beachler, who had a huge night, put an offensive rebound back in to get his team back up 6-5. The Bulldogs again answered with a three-point shot to take the lead again.
By the end of the quarter, Tygarts Valley clung to a slender 10-9 lead.
The Bulldogs through much of the first half played to their strengths, good half court offense and defense. Like the Wildcats, at least initially, they spread the floor, ran their plays and took time off the clock. Pendleton County had little opportunity to force turnovers at this point.
Pendleton County opened the second quarter with Kimble taking a charge. On the Wildcats’ next possession Chase Owens was fouled shooting from the post. He hit one of two free throws, with Beachler taking the offensive rebound on the second attempt. He kicked it to Owens at the top of the key, who hit the open three and put them ahead 13-10.
Through the first half while others struggled from the floor, Beachler put the Wildcats on his back. At the 5:07 mark, he drove the lane and scored a layup to put his team up 15-13. Meanwhile the Bulldog defense remained tough, getting four steals in the quarter.
With 1:17 left, Tygarts Valley took a one-point lead. Beachler then put Pendleton County back on top 17-16 with a minute left, stole the ball with 28 seconds left, then laid the ball in again at the six-second mark. Pendleton County went into the half with a 19-16 lead.
Pendleton County broke the game wide open in the third quarter for two reasons. Other shooters started to heat up, but also, Tygarts Valley forgot the formula that kept them in the game. The Bulldogs stopped running their offense, tending instead to bunch up on the ball side of the floor. The Wildcats’ athletes easily defended a smaller area, forcing more turnovers and shutting down scoring.
For the Wildcats, the third quarter began much like the first. Kimble started off the scoring, but this time with a running hook shot. With close to two minutes gone, Beachler buried a three-point shot, pushing the lead to 24-16.
Brayden Beachler also helped to widen the score, hitting two three-pointers in the quarter, one off of a Dusty Smith assist. Clayton Kisamore launched himself into passing lanes, coming up with two steals that he took all the way down the court for scores.
Pendleton County ended the third quarter with a comfortable 41-22 lead, but Tygarts Valley was not yet ready to concede the game. The first half of the fourth quarter saw the Wildcats holding off efforts to catch back up. Dusty Smith hit two free throws at the beginning of the quarter, followed by a Jacob Beachler baseline drive that kept the lead at 20.
The Wildcats earned almost their biggest lead of the night when Brayden Beachler hit Kisamore inside. He pivoted, scored a layup, and drew a foul, putting Pendleton County up 51-29.
Then the Bulldogs tried to mount a comeback. Throughout the game, they had not pressed. Now, down by over 20, they went into a full court man-to-man press. From the 4:07 mark to the end of the game, they went on a 19-7 run. Pendleton County, however, slowed the run enough to keep their opponents at arms’ length.
Dustin Vandevander grabbed a steal at the 3:49 mark, starting a fast break that ended in a Kisamore layup. More importantly, the Wildcats got the ball at the 2:46 point and ran their offense with precision for 50 seconds. This kept the suddenly hot Bulldog shooters away from scoring chances while letting the home team settle down. Tygarts Valley got the last score, hitting a basket with one second left to set the final at 59-46.