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Bulldogs score the first KO

December 30, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Round 1 goes to Martinsburg.

In the first of what could be four meetings this season, Martinsburg's boys basketball team asserted itself early with speed and quickness that surprised Jefferson, and the Bulldogs went on to a 70-62 victory and the Martinsburg Hoops Invitational crown.

The teams meet again next Friday in Round 2, again at Martinsburg, as the battle for the upper hand in the sectional seeding process begins. A late-season battle at Jefferson will follow, and a potential fourth game could come in the sectional.

"We weren't ready for them," said Jefferson coach Bob Starkey. "They out-quicked us at the beginning of the game."

A 10-point, six-rebound first quarter by Jefferson's 6-foot-5 center Vance Hosby wasn't enough to keep the Cougars (4-1) from being out-raced at both ends of the court.

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Martinsburg (3-0) unleashed its new triple-threat trio of seniors Xavier Peters and Isaiah Alford and sophomore Isaac Thornton.

Thornton followed a miss of his own with a putback, Peters scored in transition on an assist by Tion Jackson, and Alford drained a 3-pointer that gave Martinsburg a 21-9 lead with 2:23 left in the first period. The Falcons never really recovered.

"We were ready to go right out the gate," said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. "We were quick with the outlet pass and with our quickness, I'll take a 4-on-3, 3-on-2 anytime."

Jefferson managed to get back within 31-28 late in the second period, but Thornton made sure the lead was safe, hitting a deuce and two 3-pointers that gave the Bulldogs a 39-32 lead at the break. Thornton scored 16 of his game-high 27 points in the first half.

"He just turned 16, but he understands the game so well," said Rogers.

Martinsburg's defense became its best offense early in the third period, forcing eight Jefferson turnovers. The Bulldogs converted six of them into 12 points.

Thornton added nine points in the final quarter as Martinsburg's lead eventually reached 20 points at 65-45. The Cougars put together a late offensive splurge with six points from Hosby and three 3-pointers that helped close the gap to 68-61 with 35 seconds remaining before the Bulldogs closed the door.

"Our offense has surprised me at this early point," said Rogers. "When you only have three players from last year, you might have been afraid of chemistry working together. But it hasn't been that way. We have a bunch of guys playing together as a team and we've got a deeper bench."

Dustin Peters, a 6-2 junior and quarterback of the Bulldogs' football team, who just recently joined the basketball team - provided valuable minutes off the bench, as did Jackson and Alvin Brown.

In the scorebook though, it was the triple-threat that sealed the deal. Backing up Thornton, Peters supplied 24 points and Alford added 12. Thornton also led the Bulldogs with eight rebounds. Overall, Martinsburg shot 48 percent from the floor.

"(Martinsburg's) defense choked us off getting to Hosby," said Starkey. "And then, we had some turnovers. We didn't maintain our composure under stress."

The Bulldogs failed to provide backside support as 6-4 forward Aaron Crim fronted Hosby in the opening minutes, leaving the Cougars' center room for easy baskets until adjustments were made.

Hosby finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds for Jefferson. Ryland Newman added 14 points. The Cougars made only 8 of 19 foul shots.

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