MARTINSBURG— Unbeaten Martinsburg, the state’s top-ranked Class AAA team, was still clinging to a two-point lead when the fourth quarter began in its game last Tuesday at its Fieldhouse against invading Washington.
After having a nine-point lead when the first quarter closed, the Bulldogs had seen that margin melt away. Washington had hacked five points off the lead by halftime.
And by the time the third quarter had ended, Martinsburg had only a two-point advantage.
The Bulldogs hadn’t been subjected just yet to Washington’s best punches. When the Patriots outscored the jittery Bulldogs in the last few minutes (outpointing them 19-9 in the period), Washington had achieved a 58-50 win that not only punctured Martinsburg’s unbeaten balloon but also could prove to be important in the seeding for the Class AAA Sectional tournament coming at the end of the month.
Washington actually began chipping away at the Martinsburg lead early in the first quarter. It had to. Because the quick-starting Bulldogs had leaped out to a 13-1 lead. By the close of the first period, the early-game margin was down from 12 points to nine points.
Washington overhauled the rest of the Martinsburg lead in quick order, actually drawing even at one point before it was the Bulldogs that went on another scoring tear.
Eight first-quarter turnovers had pushed the Patriots behind the eight ball. When it was able to attempt shots, only three of its 11 shot-attempts were made.
A six-point splurge by the Patriots opened the second quarter. Another seven-point spree drew them even at 25-25.
But Martinsburg was able to ride out those first two waves of Washington-caused turbulence and outscore the Patriots 4-0 to close the first half.
The relatively low-scoring third period saw Washington get even closer to the Bulldogs when it counted 14 points and Martinsburg had 12.
It was a 41-39 Martinsburg advantage when the fourth quarter began. It would be a quarter with two faces and two tempos. Martinsburg would do enough and maintained its equilibrium in the first few minutes of the last quarter. But Washington usurped all of the lead and scored with lightning-like rapidity in the last two-plus minutes to move away to its eight-point win heard ‘round the state.
Tyrek Collier, Washington’s leader-of-the-upset, scored again on his way to a 22-point night (10-of-12 free throws) but Brandon Ashenfelter and Donte Grantham countered for the Bulldogs.
Kendell Smith (14 points), Christian Coles (eight points), and Collier collaborated to get a short lead for the Patriots.
Grantham’s jumper made it a one-point game, still favoring the Patriots.
The last two minutes were a virtual showcase of fundamentals from the Washington standpoint. Martinsburg could not cause the turnovers it severely needed. And when the Bulldogs fouled to stop the vanishing clock, the Patriots responded by making 10-of-14 free throws.
In all, Washington tried 31 free throws and made 20. Martinsburg attempted only eight free throws and made five. Getting outscored by 15 points from the foul line made staying unbeaten too difficult for the Bulldogs.
Washington was 9-6 overall after shattering Martinsburg’s dream of an unbeaten regular season. The Bulldogs were 14-1 overall.
A 13-1 deficit hadn’t ruined Washington. And Martinsburg had proved to be vulnerable and beatable.