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Bulldogs take wind out of Gaels

December 30, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers said his Bulldogs had won a big game of chess following a pulsating 70-68 double-overtime victory over St. Maria Goretti on Wednesday to claim the Martinsburg Invitational.

The Bulldogs' checkmate came when Nate Sowers popped in two free throws with 24 seconds remaining to cap an enthralling battle that left both squads gasping for a breath of fresh oxygen as the game wore on.

"There were two good teams out there tonight battling tooth and nail," said Rogers. "This was like a chess match. There were guys coming up with big shots on both teams."

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None bigger for Martinsburg (4-2) than those at the foul stripe in the two extra periods and fourth quarter while Goretti (8-4) squandered several opportunities at critical junctures that might have put the squeeze on Martinsburg.

Sowers' six points in the game all were free throws, four coming in the fourth quarter which helped keep Martinsburg a jump ahead of Goretti. Nick Benvides went 4 of 4 at the line in overtime, all part of 16 of 21 shooting from the Bulldogs in the final 16 minutes of the game.

"Benavides, I thought, came up real big with the free throws and he played a great floor game," said Rogers. "And (Andre) Hornes just plays so big against big guys."

Hornes, who had the game-winning basket in the semifinals to beat Thomas Johnson on Tuesday, battled for a game-high 24 points while Q'Monte Matheny added 22, including a trio of 3-pointers.

Goretti led 50-49 with seven ticks remaining in regulation when Andrew Chambers hit one of his two free throws. Matheny tied it, 50-50, splitting two free tosses before Goretti's Joey Spierenburg missed a rim-rattler underneath that would have won it for Goretti.

Chambers' bucket with 27 seconds left to a 58-58 tie after the first overtime and Martinsburg jumped to a 66-61 led in the next extra period on four free throws before Goretti eventually knotted the score 68-68 on a basket by Gene Johnson.

"This was one of those games that you really don't want to see a loser," Rogers said.

The Gaels had chances late in the game at the line but went only 7 of 14 missing several front ends of one-and-one situations.

"There were too many chances we didn't make good on at the line and too many peeps at the basket we missed," Goretti coach Cokey Robertson said. "We didn't make a lot of smart decisions at critical points of the game."

Johnson led Goretti with 20 points, hitting 9 of 15 from the floor. Chambers added 19 before fouling out and Spierenburg had 15 along with eight rebounds and six blocked shots.

The two teams will do it again against each other two more times during the remainder of the season. Should be quite an encore.

n In the consolation match, Thomas Johnson (6-1) rebounded from its tough loss to Martinsburg with a 60-55 verdict over Theodore Roosevelt, D.C.

Jair Brady led the Patriots with 15 points, Clinton Jones added 13 and Tim Abercrombie had 12 for TJ, which rolled to a 20-11 led late in the first period and then held off Roosevelt down the stretch.

The Patriots hit 8 of 11 from the line in the fourth quarter and 17 of 23 for the game and Deke Gaeng had six conversions at the stripe that helped keep the Patriots in the lead.

"We had to exert a lot of energy the night before so I was concerned with how we would respond," said TJ coach Tim Abercrombie. "Gaeng, (Josh) Alderson and (Brandon) Giles all came off the bench and gave us a solid effort."

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