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Eagles have landed in states

March 04, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - This time, the celebration was subdued.

Hedgesville's girls basketball team knows what it's like to win the West Virginia Class AAA Region II championship, having done so last year. This year, making the state tournament is just a step toward the Eagles' ultimate goal of a state title.

It was business as usual for Hedgesville on Thursday as the Eagles dispatched Hampshire 52-34 in meticulous fashion to successfully defend their region title.

"I tried to preach to them how important it was to play well in this game," Hedgesville coach Ben Merica said, and the Eagles (20-3) got the message, taking the lead midway through the first quarter and never trailing again. "We weren't taking Hampshire for granted."

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As methodically as they picked apart the Trojans (11-12), Hedgesville's players snipped apart the net afterward. Smiles were plenty; displays of emotion exceeding that were few. The real mission for the Eagles starts next week at the state tournament in Charleston, W.Va.

"We have experience on our shoulders," said point guard Miranda Reed, who had 13 points and seven assists against Hampshire. "I think we'll go in there much more confident and hopefully we'll have a good showing."

Hedgesville opened with a zone defense against Hampshire, then unleashed its full-court press midway through the first quarter.

Hampshire committed eight turnovers in the opening eight minutes, and Ashton Butler had the hot hand with seven of her game-high 15 points in the quarter as the Eagles claimed a 12-8 lead.

"(Going to the press) was a call of mine," Merica said. "We had the chance to go to it out of the gate, but I thought we'd save it and see if we could catch them off-guard a bit. ... It turned out well for us."

The lead kept growing in the second quarter behind a 7-0 run in which four players scored for the Eagles, who outrebounded the Trojans 10-3 in the quarter and held a 26-14 lead at halftime.

Hedgesville never let the lead drop below eight points in the second half, and pulled away with an 8-0 fourth-quarter run that made it 48-28. The Eagles started pounding the ball inside to Jennie Finafrock, who scored five of her six field goals in the second half - four off of feeds from Reed - to keep Hedgesville rolling.

"It was great that other people could step up," Reed said with regards to Butler and Finafrock. "It shows how many people we have that can all play and how many people can step up for us."

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