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'Dogs nip TJ at buzzer

December 29, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - What started out as a game of confined situations ended up being decided with a jailbreak.

Thomas Johnson and Martinsburg renewed a rivalry with a see-saw game reminiscent of days gone by as 32 minutes of struggling was decided in the blink of 9.2 seconds.

Martinsburg concluded a final rush to the basket as Andre Hornes scored on a tip-in for his 23rd point with 1.2 seconds remaining to lift the Bulldogs to a 53-52 victory over the previously undefeated Patriots on Tuesday night in the semifinal round of the Martinsburg Invitational.

"Have you ever known Martinsburg and Thomas Johnson not to play a good basketball game?" said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. "Basketball is a game of spurts. They had theirs and we had ours. Thank goodness we got the last one."

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The last flurry moves Martinsburg into tonight's championship game with St. Maria Goretti, which played like gangbusters in a convincing 72-44 victory over Theodore Roosevelt. TJ and Roosevelt will play the opener at 7.

Martinsburg won a tug-of-war of wills to advance to the finals. The Bulldogs were at their best when they were in transition while the Patriots were in control when they worked for clear shots in their motion offense.

"We had some good chances in the open floor," TJ coach Tim Abercrombie said. "We had some great opportunities and blew the easier shots."

The Patriots battled back from a 32-25 halftime deficit to grab their first lead of the game at 44-42 off a Jair Brady steal and layup with 7:22 remaining in the game. The teams traded the lead six times until the final sequence, built by four missed Martinsburg free throws.

Brady scored on a drive with 9.2 remaining to give Thomas Johnson a 52-51 lead. The Bulldogs rushed the ball up the floor against the Patriots, who were without any timeouts.

Jamelle Page rushed the backboard from the left side of the floor and rolled a running 5-footer off the front of the rim with three seconds remaining. Hornes found an opening in the lane in front of the basket for the uncontested tap and the victory.

"Hey, 9.2 seconds is a lot of time," Rogers said. "We wanted to get the ball in from out of bounds, push it up the floor, get a shot and crash the boards. That's what we did. We were going to try to get the ball to Nate (Sowers) or Andre, but Jamelle made a heck of a drive and Andre was there."

Sowers finished with 12 points to compliment an all-round game by Hornes, who also turned two steals into breakaway baskets. TJ showed balance and used seven 3-pointers to stay in the game as Tim Abercrombie led with 14 points while Brady and John Truxille added 12 each.

n For Goretti, it was a case of seeing is believing.

After the Gaels used a 9-2 run to gain a 27-18 advantage at the half, Goretti realized that coach Cokey Robertson might know a little something about basketball.

"We told them at the half that (Theodore Roosevelt) wasn't getting back on defense," Robertson said. "If we could get rebounds and look down the floor, we might get some easy baskets. It didn't sink in until after they saw it for the first time ... then they realized I might know what I was talking about."

The rebounding of Gene Johnson and the floor presence of Kevin Brashears off the rebounds opened the transition game as Goretti ran off a 13-2 run in the first 4:35 of the second half to all but knock the Roughriders out of the game with a 40-20 lead. Brashears scored nine in the run while Johnson got the other four.

"It seemed like someone was always doing something right for us," Robertson said. "It was a total effort."

Theodore Roosevelt scored the final eight points of the third quarter to close within 46-32, but Goretti scored the first eight of the fourth quarter to tame the Roughriders.

Johnson finished with 21 points while Brashears added 19 to pace Goretti.

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