MARTINSBURG — A Sectional title eluded Washington High. But even the highly-charged 61-55 loss to Martinsburg wasn’t the most important game of the season for the Patriots.
Last night’s one-game Regional against Lewis County in Weston became Washington’s moment of truth because the winner of that one goes on to Charleston as one of the eight schools landing berths in the Class AAA state tournament field.
Washington’s game at Lewis County was delayed until Thursday night.
Washington had to play at Martinsburg because the Bulldogs won both regular season games between the two teams. Washington had to play at Lewis County because the Minutemen defeated Elkins in a Sectional that is the second part of Region II.
A low-scoring second quarter harmed Washington almost as much as did the Bulldogs’ Dante’ Grantham, who led all scorers with 22 points that included a flurry in the late-going that kept the Patriots from surviving an 11-point second period.
Martinsburg had a 36-28 lead by halftime.
When the Patriots returned the favor in the third quarter, the game was made ready for an electric last period that would determine which team stayed at home for a Regional game and which one took to the highway to the middle of the state.
With Martinsburg still clinging to a two-point lead in the final stages, Grantham lifted that advantage to six points.
That lead was enough. Martinsburg had a 22-2 overall record and three wins against Washington. It faced Elkins last night at its own Fieldhouse. The Patriots were 19-5 overall and needed to win in Weston to gain the school’s first-ever state tournament berth. The last time Washington was in a similar position, it suffered a controversial one-point Regional loss in Clarksburg to Robert Byrd High.
The eight-man bench of the Bulldogs outdid the five scorers the Patriots found.
Even though Kendell Smith, Maleke Jones, and Jerome Jones all scored 13 points, it was the nine points the Bulldog defense limited Dominique Newman to helped settle the score in Martinsburg’s favor. Newman had scored 29 points in Washington’s semifinal win at home over Hedgesville.
Even after 24 games, the degree of success the Washington season attains will be measured by how it does against Lewis County.