Eagles net Region II title

March 03, 2004|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Hedgesville girls basketball coach Ben Merica gathered his team under the basket and had a focused, but brief conversation.

But this talk had little to do with swing offenses or trapping defenses.

What Merica was doing was giving quick instructions on cutting down the net for a momento after the Eagles won the West Virginia Class AAA Region II championship in style, 60-31 over Musselman before a packed house in the Martinsburg High School gym Tuesday.

Hedgesville used its team speed and an uncanny ability to do just about everything right to sprint out to a 31-15 halftime lead and was never seriously challenged.

"This has been a long time coming," Merica said. "So we wanted to get the net thing right. That is something we never thought about."


It was Hedgesville's first region title in 17 years and will be Merica's first trip to the state tournament as a coach.

But, more importantly for the Eagles (19-5), it was a vindication of sorts for a disappointing exit in the region championship last year after a stunning loss to Martinsburg.

"We honestly felt we had the team to win this thing last year," Merica said. "But Martinsburg played a great game when they had to and we were disappointed. ...

"Well, we got this one. I just wish the few kids who started with me but graduated last year were here to enjoy it."

There were plenty of hugs and congratulations to go around Tuesday night.

Senior Tiffany Linn said the win was like a tremendous weight being lifted off the team.

"We wanted to be at this point so badly," Linn said. "For me, it has been a personal goal for the last five years. But I'm happy for the team and everyone else."

"I've been going to the state tournament with my father since I've been in the fourth grade," senior Amanda Dellinger said. "Now I'm going as a player. It is like a dream."

But Hedgesville didn't dally in a dream world with the overmatched Applemen. The Eagles won the game the same way they have all season - with an opportunistic offense combined with a stifling defense that harasses opposing guards at the halfcourt.

"Our team strength is defense, but we can do that better," Merica said. "We want to work on some things but right now, we are going to enjoy this."

Samantha Guell led Hedgesville with 16 points, while Whitney Rideout led the Applemen with six.

Hedgesville will play Fairmont Senior in the state quarterfinals March 11 at Charleston Civic Center at 11:45 a.m.

The Herald-Mail Articles