GRAFTON— Scotty Hamilton Gymnasium was a roar of excitement on Wednesday evening, as the Grafton Bearcats kicked off the sectional semifinals against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in what would be a nail biting event.
Taking to their home court looking for a win and the opportunity to advance, Grafton showed no mercy, dominating at the rim and taking an early 15-8 lead in the first quarter. But the Irish wouldn’t back down so easily.
As play continued to be fast and physical, Notre Dame found momentum, adding 20 points to their side of the board during the second quarter of action, destroying the Cats’ lead and pulling ahead by a bucket to end the first half with a score of 26-28.
With neither team wanting to see their season come to an end, the second half of the game would have fans on the edge of their seats as the back-and-fourth battle to advance to states continued.
Heading into the final eight minutes of play, the Bearcats found themselves down by two, but their passion for the game would not allow them to give up. After talking strategy with head coach Mike Johnson, and receiving encouragement from the Bearcat bench and crowd, Grafton took to the floor with determination in their hearts.
The final quarter proved to be no easy feat for Grafton, with Notre Dame continuing to sink their shots and Goodwin connecting for a three that kept the Irish a step ahead.
The fate of the game would come down to the final seconds with a beautiful assist by Bearcat Kaden Delaney.
With time running out, the Cats controlled the ball with the score sitting at 55 all.
Delaney in possession behind the arch, found teammate Justin Spiker across the court, positioned under the basket. As the clock was winding down, Delaney’s pass connected with Spiker in just enough time for Spiker to lay it in at the buzzer and give the Cats the two-point victory over the Irish, with a final of 57-55.
The crowd erupted in celebration and pride as the Bearcats claimed their spot in the West Virginia Sectional Finals.
Leading the Bearcats in scoring was junior Ryan Maier, coming off an injury racking up 18 points on the night, connecting with one three-point attempt, sinking six field goals and going a perfect three-for-three from the foul line.
In addition to his game winning assist, Delaney also added 15 points of his own, while Tanner Moats knocked down nine, Spiker tallied six and Blake Moore contributed five.
On the night, the Cats yielded 23 made field goals, and two made threes. The team went seven for 13 from the charity stripe, and forced the Irish to commit 15 turnovers, while Grafton only recorded nine.
The Bearcats’ hard earned win embodies what it means to work as a team. The selfless decision made by one player, changed the course of the game.
The #8 Cats took on the #2 Fairmont Senior Polar Bears in Fairmont last night for the Sectional final. Results will be featuring in an upcoming edition of the Mountain Statesman.
Congratulations to the Bearcats and their coaching staff on a well-earned win.