Cats prove that out of adversity comes opportunity

Bearcats to face their toughest test of the season in WV AA State Tournament

GRAFTON —The Grafton High School Bearcat Basketball team will be representing their school, Grafton and Taylor County on Thursday evening, when they travel to Charleston to take on the number one seed in class AA, in the 2019 WVSSAC Boys Basketball State Championship. The opponent for GHS will be last year’s state champions, the Chapmanville Regional High School Tigers.

The Bearcats earned their way into the state tournament by winning their section and defeating North Marion in the Region 1 final. The Tigers defeated Lincoln County and Logan to win their section, and then dominated Nitro 107—52 to win their region.

This will be Grafton’s first trip to Charleston in over 10 years.

“Obviously we are all excited for the opportunity to play in the state tournament,” said head coach Michael Johnson. “It is a culmination of all of the boys’ hard work and determination throughout the year.”

He revealed that the Bearcats also had the opportunity to go the West Virginia University Coliseum to have a shoot around, allowing them to adjust to all the room behind the baskets.

It’s been a long road for these Bearcats this season, with many ups and downs. The Cats opened the season at the Sam Bord Tournament, with a win over Pocahontas County. They then suffered a loss to Trinity in the Championship game 68—44.

The Bearcats would then lose the next seven games with the losses coming to East Fairmont, Philip Barbour, Frankfort, Keyser, Musselman, Buckhannon-Upshur and Bridgeport.

The boys would show that Bearcats fight until the end, and would go on to defeat Lewis County in their next game 76—59. Lewis County will also be playing in the class AA state tournament.

The Cats would then fall to Elkins, but bounced right back into action to beat Preston 93—57. GHS would then go on a three-game skid with losses to Mingo Central, Fairmont Senior and Robert C Byrd.

Michael Johnson’s Cats would then go on their best run of the season to that point with four consecutive wins over Petersburg, Liberty (Harrison), Philip Barbour and Berkeley Springs.

Just when they thought they had things figured out the Bearcats would drop the next three games to North Marion, Lincoln and RCB.

After a roller coaster season, the Bearcats were faced with a ‘win or go home’ scenario as the Section 1 Region 1 tournament opened. The Cats found themselves as the number four seed going in, with a tough road ahead.

In the first round of play, the Bearcats defeated Berkeley Springs 74—65, and then defeated the number one seed Frankfort 58—46, to put them in the sectional championship against Keyser. The Cats would beat Keyser by eight, to advance to the Regional final against North Marion. Keyser also advanced but would lose in the final to Fairmont Senior.

The Cats would host the regional final in front of the largest basketball crowd to watch a game in the Scotty Hamilton Gymnasium.

During an energy-filled game, in front of a packed house, the Bearcats jumped out to an early lead, and in fact, led the entire game on their way to a 61—50 win, and with the win our Grafton High School Bearcats were named WV AA Region 1 Champions.

The Cats received their much needed “fast offensive start” to the contest when Garrett Wellman stole the ball on the opening North Marion possession and drove the ball to the rim to put the Cats up 2-0. Wellman would then go on to score the first seven points in the contest for GHS.

The Cats would hold a six-point lead after one quarter of play with Ryan Maier, Jack Faulkner

and Wellman all scoring in the quarter. The Cats would continue to roll in the second as they

won the quarter 17 to 16 giving them a 35 to 28 advantage going into the locker room at the half.

The third quarter proved to be a difficult offensive quarter for GHS, with the Bearcats only adding eight more points to their side of the board. The Huskies would put in 12, as they moved to within three points going into the final quarter of play.

The fourth quarter would belong to GHS, and the boys were determined to not let the game and their shot at states get away from them. With some key rebounds late by Caleb Bish and clutch free throws made by Blake Moore, the Cats would extend their lead late in the quarter. The exclamation point in the game came when Jack Faulkner stole a North Marion pass and took it the length of the floor and dunked the ball as time expired.

Faulkner was once again the leading scorer for GHS with 21 points followed by Blake Moore

with 13 and Maier with 12. The remaining GHS points were scored by Wellman (7), Bish (4),

Logan Beltner (2) and Garrett Moats (2).

With that win the Cats earned their trip to the Charleston Civic Center as the number eight seed.

“I am super proud of this team,” said Coach Johnson. “They have been the true definition of overcoming adversity all season. We started out 1-8, went on a little winning streak, then lost a couple more in a row, but these boys never game up.”

“We told them you don’t have to be good in December and even January, but you have to be good at the end of the season. And that is just what these young men have accomplished. The kids have bought in and are playing their best basketball at the right time,” he concluded.

As mentioned before, the Bearcats will be playing the number one team in Class AA and the number one seed in the tournament.

This season the Chapmanville Tigers have a record of 23 and 2, with their two losses coming in tournaments in Florida and the MLK Shootout in Charlotte. Both of those losses were only two-point defeats. The team from Logan County comes into the game on a 12-game winning streak and no losses, coming in their home state.

When comparing the two teams, Grafton has scored 1610 points on the season and has allowed their opponents to score 1616 while the Tigers have scored 1853 and allowed 1218.

Breaking that down, the Cats are averaging 62 points per game, while allowing their opponents to average 63. The Tigers are averaging 74 and only allowing their opponents to score 48. The two teams do not have a common opponent on the season.

“Chapmanville is a very good basketball team,” said Coach Johnson. “They have really good size and skill. They start 6’9, 6’8, 6’4, 6’3 and 6’0. They also shoot the ball really well from the outside.”

“We are going to have to work extremely hard to limit their chances offensively and get out in transition when we have the chance. We have to continue to work in practice every day to get better,” he added.

The teams will meet tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center, in the first round of the Class AA tournament.

“We know going that we have a tall task relatively and figuratively. It’s exciting for the school, the community and Taylor County, as a whole,” concluded Johnson.

Tickets will be available today, Wednesday, March 13, in the main office at GHS, from 7:30 a.m., until 2:00 p.m. Adults can purchase tickets for $8 and student tickets cost $6.

Congratulations to all of the Bearcat basketball players and coaches! Play hard and leave it all on the hardwood!

© 2019-Mountain Statesman

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