CLARKSBURG—The Grafton High School boys basketball season came to a heartbreaking conclusion on Tuesday evening.
Faced with the opportunity to advance to the state finals, the #8 Bearcats (12-5) traveled to Clarksburg to take on the #1 Robert C. Byrd (RCB) Eagles (12-1) in the Region II Class AAA Championship. However, the contest would not end in favor of the Cats.
Opening strong, Grafton saw four Bearcats make it into the scoring column through the first quarter.
Ryan Maier, Blake Moore, Kaden Delaney and JT Veltri were shooting at will, firing jumpers and combining to score the first 18 of Grafton’s points; keeping their team ahead of the competitor by three, to close out the first quarter of action.
While the game would remain a close contest through the second quarter, Grafton would outscore RCB once again, being carried by the second quarter shooting of Tanner Moats, who knocked down two from behind the three-point line, and earned two field goals, while Veltri, Maier, Justin Spiker and Moore each added two points giving the Bearcats the 36-32 lead at the half.
Coming out of the break, it would be the Eagles taking control of the game, racking up 54 points over the final two quarters.
With Grafton’s Maier and Moore in a bit of foul trouble, RCB took advantage, driving to the basket, crashing the boards and connecting with four three-pointers. The Eagles also went four-for-four from the free throw line, tallying 30 points for RCB in the third quarter alone.
Unable to stop them on the defensive end, the Bearcats also struggled with shooting in the second half, just missing the mark.
The Cats shot just 50 percent from the charity stripe in the third. Although their shots weren’t falling, the team still managed to score 14 points from Maier, Moats, Spiker and Delaney.
With the scoreboard in favor of the Eagles, 50-62, to begin the final eight minutes of play, the Bearcats looked to stage a comeback, but ultimately could not overcome the shooting rhythm of the Eagles.
The Eagles went on to outscore the Cats 24-16 in the fourth quarter, giving them the edge over Grafton to take home the 84-66 victory.
Throughout the game, Moore was two-of-two from the free throw line, knocked down four field goals and connected with two three-pointers to lead Grafton with 16 points.
Maier contributed to the team with four field goals and went five-for-seven from the stripe, giving him 13 points for the evening.
Moats and Delaney each earned 12 points, while Veltri added eight and Spiker scored five.
Leading for the Eagles were J. King (25) and G. Kennedy (23).
And while the Bearcats were hoping for a chance at states and disappointed to see their season come to an end, they can hold their heads high, knowing that they gave their all during the most unusual of seasons.