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Basketball notes - W.Va. sectional bye is on the line tonight

February 11, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kaufman@herald-mail.com

Tonight's Hedgesville vs. Jefferson boys basketball showdown has all the makings of a heavyweight championship prize fight.

As always, there's Eastern Panhandle bragging rights at stake.

There's significant sectional-playoff ramifications at stake for Jefferson, Hedgesville and Martinsburg.

And there's the revenge factor, as the Cougars try to pay back the Eagles for an 81-71 setback four weeks ago.

"We got the game in the high numbers like we wanted last time and played well, but they played better," Jefferson coach Bob Starkey said. "We have to step our game up a notch, or they have to come down a notch."

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Add it all up, and the Butcher Center at Shepherd University is the place to be. The varisty tip-off is scheduled for 8.

Jefferson - as it did for its home game against the Bulldogs earlier this season - moved tonight's game to the Butcher Center to accomodate what will surely be a large and vociferous crowd.

"We sacrificed home court for the benefit of the fans," Starkey said. "It was really nice when we played Martinsburg, it was a great atmosphere. That's one thing West Virginia does, they follow their teams."

Tonight's result will either guarantee the Eagles a bye into the sectional final, or leave all three teams tied at 2-2 in the section.

Martinsburg split its season series with both Jefferson and Hedgesville. The Eagles can lock up the bye if they can finish a sweep of the Cougars tonight, but a Jefferson victory would result in coin flips to determinine which team gets the coveted pass to the final and the guarantee that it only has to win one tough game instead of two.

"When all the teams are dead even, not having a bye is not the best thing," Starkey said. "In a section like this, everything's riding on both games and both games are going to be extremely tough."

In the first meeting, Jefferson got the kind of game it wanted against Hedgesville, a run-and-gun, fast-paced affair. It didn't matter, as the Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter and made 31 of 41 free throws in the contest to keep the Cougars at bay.

"We kind of thrive in a transition game, that's our style, but they're good at it too," Starkey said. "You know they're good, they beat us rather decisively, they split with Martinsburg and you know Martinsburg is tough, so they're for real."

Martin's nose for the ball

At first glance, James Buchanan center Shaina Martin's knack for getting offensive rebounds seems like a statistical anomaly.

Finding a reason for why such a large percentage of Martin's rebounds - 90 of 146 (61.6 percent) - come on the offensive end is a tricky task. Nevertheless, Rockets coach Becky Miller took a shot.

"Maybe part of it is the offense we run. She's the only girl we have inside and having that extra room to move around helps her get a decent amount of rebounds," Miller said. "She's only 5-8. ... She's not a real big girl but she's in good shape and it just doesn't look like she's as strong as she is. The other thing is a lot of times she's a lot quicker than her opponents. She's an incredible jumper and she wouldn't get a lot of those rebounds if she wasn't.

"Last year she was a sub and she learned a lot going against Courtney West in practice. You can't teach that sense of where to be at certain times, but if you guard someone like Courtney, who was also good at getting offensive rebounds, I think you subconsciously learn that."

James Buchanan opens the PIAA District 3 Class AAA playoffs against Bishop McDevitt at Middletown (Pa.) High School on Wednesday night. Martin's skill on the offensive glass will surely be needed.

"As a team we might shoot 30 percent, 35 percent if we're lucky," Miller said. "As many second chances as you can get, it's a bonus. I think she averages about 10 points, and six or seven of those are off offensive rebounds."

Martin isn't the only area girl with a knack for finding the ball on the offensive glass. New Life Christian's Kendra Varnon (80 of 137, 58.4 percent), Grace Academy's Kelsie Shaffer (50 of 88, 56.8 percent), Thomas Johnson's Nia Josiah (55 of 105, 52.4 percent), Southern Fulton's Jessie Wigfield (92 of 177, 52 percent) and Hancock's Jennifer Willison (124 of 240, 51.7 percent) all grab more than half their total rebounds on that end of the floor.

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