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Cougars get in, win 'the mix'

March 05, 2005|by CURT HORNBECKER/Staff Correspondent

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Starkey made a promise he didn't intend to make last year when he was hired to take over the Jefferson boys basketball team.

Friday night, he kept the promise anyway.

"I threw down the gauntlet," said Starkey. "I said '(Hedgesville coach Kelly) Church and (Martinsburg coach Dave) Rogers have had their way around here for too long. It's time for someone else to get into the mix.'"

And the Cougars did just that by trimming Hedgesville 63-59 to claim the West Virginia Class AAA Region II Section 2 championship, just two days after beating Martinsburg in the semifinal.

Despite enjoying a 15-point lead at the half, the Cougars (18-5) needed a Josh Brown steal with eight seconds left to avoid a possible overtime.

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Trailing by three, the Eagles (18-4) called timeout to set up their final play, but Brown - who appeared somewhat confused before the ball was put in play - tipped the inbounds pass and hit the first of two free throws to seal the deal for Jefferson.

"I figured (Hedgesville) would set up a different way," said Brown, who was named to the All-Tournament team. "I was asking Coach (Starkey) what he wanted us to do. When I saw the pass, I just went after it."

If not for a lull to start the second period, Jefferson might have run away with the win.

Holding a 35-20 advantage at the half, Jefferson came out flat in third quarter as the Eagles reeled off an 11-2 run to pull within 37-31.

"I told them at halftime they had two choices," said Church. "They could hang their heads, or they could go out, warm up, stay loose, and play harder than they've ever played before. We got the effort, it just didn't go our way."

A 15-point second-half effort from Mark Manspile along with three 3-pointers from Michael Lopez, and seven points from Matt Deaner sparked the comeback for the Eagles.

"We were up by 15, and we got a little bit complacent," said Starkey. "We smelled blood, and we shot the ball too quickly. We just hit an impatient spell."

In the first half, it was Jefferson draining the 3s, with Aaron Edwards collecting three, as the Cougars hit 14 of 24 shots from the floor including five of six from beyond the arc.

"We wanted to stop Josh (Brown) and Ryland (Newman) from beating us from the outside," said Church, "and we did that. But Edwards hurt us."

Church certainly couldn't blame his club's free-throw shooting. The Eagles hit all 13 attempts from the line.

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