Hancock, Berkeley Springs advance to Shootout final

December 27, 1998|By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Coach Daryl Hunsberger wants his Clear Spring Blazers to become more comfortable in the position they were in during more than half their game in the opening round of the Great Tri-State Shootout.

Unfortunately for the Blazers, the Hancock Panthers were less than accomodating.

Behind the 18-point, 18-rebound game of Derek Hoffman, the Panthers rallied in the second half, overcoming frigid shooting and an aggressive defense by the Blazers to slip away with a 61-50 win. Hancock faces Berkeley Springs, a 74-48 winner over Southern Fulton, in Monday's tournament final.

The Panthers, victims of the Blazers' signature slowdown style, shot a season low 26 percent from the floor in the first half, as Clear Spring used a tight box-and-one defensive set to stifle the 6-foot-8 Hoffman, holding him to a mere three points.

"We scouted them and we felt we could hold Hoffman down with our variation of the box-and-one," Hunsberger said. "It worked like a charm in the first half."


A definite understatement. In fact, the Panthers entire offensive output for the first half was only 14 points, also a season low. The bigger, quicker Panthers seemed to become content in the first half relying on their size to dominate the boards on both ends of the floor.

And although that recipe can work, the Panthers forgot one important ingredient.

Great defense has to be followed up by some offense.

Any offense.

But the Panthers remained chilled.

"We did not shoot the ball well in the first half," Hancock coach Jeff Spielman said. "There were times we had three or four shots close in and nothing dropped."

But, the frustration level rose for Hancock as the Blazers pushed ahead 29-14 at the 3:50 mark of the third quarter. Spielman turned to Hancock's man-to-man defense, and quickly, the wheels came off for the Blazers.

The Panthers tied the score on a Hoffman three-pointer with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

And although Clear Spring pushed out to a five-point lead early in the fourth, they were never quite comfortable.

"Our kids were happy with where they were at that point, but we could not hold on," Hunsberger said.

Hancock took the lead on a pair of Justin Kint free throws at the four-minute mark, before using a 12-2 run to put the game away.

In the nightcap, Berkeley Springs used the dominant inside game of 6-6 Keith Davis and the pinpoint shooting of Matt Omps to run away from outmatched but gritty Southern Fulton.

Davis muscled in 21 points in a matchup against Southern Fulton's 6-6 Jeremy Bradley.

Bradley had 17 points for Southern Fulton, but Omps threw in 20 points for Berkeley Springs.

The name of the game, though, was Berkeley Spring's pressure against Southern Fulton's young guards, preventing them to get the ball to Bradley.

Berkeley Springs to pressure the Indian's young guards, preventing them from working the ball consistently to Bradley.

"We respect Bradley and know the kind of player he is," Berkeley Springs coach Mick Petoney said. "We wanted to pressure their inexperienced guards into making some errors."

The Indians also forced Southern Fulton to go to a perimeter offense by using Davis and a halfcourt trapping defense to all but cut off the passing lanes to Bradley and 6-1 forward Marshall Mills.

Berkeley Springs led by 13 at the half, and increased the lead to 16 entering the last quarter.

But Southern Fulton had trouble covering the outlet pass the Indians seemed to effortlessly clear out to the wings. In the fourth, those passes began to add up to layups.

"We want to create a dilemma for our opponent,"Petoney said. "Having Jamie Hiles back allowed us to do so much more."

Hiles scored eight points and was an integral part of the Indian's fourth quarter run.

"Now we are looking forward to playing Hancock again," Petoney said. "That game is always a challenge for us and we know that this time, they have a few more kids playing better."

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