CHARLESTON — When it was trailing 10-0, getting through its semifinal state tournament game against Martinsburg with a win looked improbable for Washington. Afterall, the Patriots had already lost three times this season to the Bulldogs.
After committing eight turnovers, Washington trailed by nine points at the close of the first quarter. The Patriots rallied back through the last three periods, getting to within two points of the lead with possession with under 20 seconds remaining.
When a jumper was off target, Martinsburg had survived the Patriot charge and could claim 45-42 win that sent it to the Class AAA bracket’s finals against Beckley Woodrow Wilson.
The ugly beginning had cost the Patriots.
Martinsburg owned two regular season wins over Washington. In the postseason tournaments, the Bulldogs defeated the Patriots in the Sectional finals and had the semifinals win in the state tournament.
Once Washington quit making turnovers, it gradually cut away the 14-5 deficit it faced after one quarter. The Patriots had just 13 turnovers in all.
The low-scoring first half was partially caused by Washington’s 2-3 zone defense. The Bulldogs had a 22-15 lead by halftime. Martinsburg senior Dante’ Grantham was the only scorer having much effect on the game.
With neither team getting points with offensive rebounds, the scoring came slowly again in the third quarter. When Washington would move to within four points of the lead, the Bulldogs would use points from Grantham to move ahead by six or seven points.
Washington still trailed, 41-33, with only 3:37 remaining. It was a seven-point deficit with just 1:18 to play. But when Kendell Smith scored inside and Keldon Bell hit a short jumper, the Patriots had clawed back to within 44-42.
Both teams had scoring chances in the last minute, but the only point scored the rest of the way was a foul shot by Jalen Lewis.
Trailing by three, the Patriots had a three-point shot miss in the last seconds. And Martinsburg had survived.
Washington quit making turnovers. And it made 11-of-14 free throws. Dominique Newman was 6-for-6 from the foul line and had 15 points. Smith had 10 points.
Grantham led Martinsburg with 18 points.
The Patriots finished with a 21-6 record. Martinsburg took a 25-2 record into the finals against Woodrow Wilson. The Bulldogs trimmed the Flying Eagles by five points to win the state championship.