KEYSER—The Grafton High School boys basketball team headed to Keyser on Saturday night to compete for a AA Region 1 Section 1 Championship game. This was the first time in several years that the Cats had made their way this deep into the section.
The only thing in the way of the Bearcats winning the title were the Golden Tornado’s of Keyser High School. Earlier in the season the Cats lost to Keyser by seven, but this game would be different. The Cats went toe-to-toe with Keyser for three quarters then in the fourth the Cats took over with some clutch shooting as the Bearcats left Keyser with a 58—50 victory.
“I am super proud of these boys,” said veteran head coach Michael Johnson. “We started the season 1-8 and they could have quit at any time. I asked them after the first few games if they could believe in us (coaches) and we would believe in them we could turn this thing around. After that we started improving every day in practice and in games and look where we are now,” he added.
The Cats, who have been known in the past as a slow staring team, came out and matched Keyser bucket for bucket in the first quarter with Jack Faulkner and Blake Moore leading the way for GHS. At the end of one it was knotted at 14 points apiece.
“We have started out slow in the past, but we have done much better in the last few games,” said Coach Johnson. “We have changed up some of what we do in practice and made some small changes both on offense and defense at the start of the game to get us to start a little faster,” he added.
The second quarter was more of a defensive struggle for both teams as GHS could only add nine points to their book while Keyser would add 11 points to their side giving them a two point lead at the half.
The Cats would turn the tables in the third quarter as Blake Moore continued to pour in the field goals allowing the Bearcats to tie the game at 40 at the end of the third.
It all came down to the final quarter of play to see who would be the 2019 Section 1 champion and neither team would back down.
Keyser’s Shawn See would score the first two buckets to open up the quarter for the Golden Tornado.
On the next two GHS possessions Dylan Massie and Logan Beltner would answer the call with two three point baskets to give GHS the lead 46-44. Keyser would tie the game on the next possession, but Faulkner would score next for GHS to keep them op two with three minutes to go in the game.
Keyser would answer once again, but this time Massie would score on a layup for GHS to give them the lead for good.
With the Bearcat lead the Golden Tornado players had to foul to try to stay in the game, but it would be for not as Beltner, Faulkner and Blake Moore made their free-throws down the end to give the Cats their sectional championship.
“We made some small adjustments at halftime as we tried to move their big man out of the paint,” said Johnson. “Logan Beltner was big for us in the fourth quarter as he was able to force their center out of the paint and guard him on the outside. Logan made some key shots for us down the stretch to help us secure the win,” he added.
Blake Moore led GHS in scoring with 16 points with nine of those points coming from behind the three point line. Faulkner would also have a good offensive nigh with 15 points followed by Beltner with eight points all coming in the fourth quarter for GHS.
The rest of the Cat points were scored by Dylan Massie (7), Garrett Moats (5), Caleb Bish (4) and Garrett Wellman (3).
Earlier in the week the Cats, who were the four seed in the tournament, defeated the number one seed Frankfort Falcons 58 to 46.
The Cats jumped out to a 19—9 lead at the end of one period and never looked back they earned their way into the sectional championship game against Keyser.
Faulkner led the Cats with 21 points followed by Moats with 11. The remaining GHS points were scored by Blake Moore (9), Ryan Maier (5), Massie (4), Wellman (3), Bish (3) and Matt Gallo (2).
With the GHS win over Keyser they will advance to play North Marion in the first round of the Region 1 tournament. The game will take place at GHS on Wednesday night with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
A win on Wednesday night would punch GHS’s ticket to Charleston to compete for a state championship, a loss would end the season for GHS.