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Kratz lifts Hancock off Shootout mat

December 27, 2007|By CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Of all the players that might provide a spark to fuel Hancock's comeback Wednesday night, perhaps the least likely was junior Tommy Kratz.

Of course, that didn't change the impact he made when he finally entered the game.

Kratz didn't get into the game until the fourth quarter and made each precious minute count with clutch plays down the stretch to help the Panthers knock off Clear Spring 59-58 in the opening round of the Great Tri-State Classic.

"Basically just whenever I'm able to get in the game, I do my best," said Kratz, who scored seven points in the final 5:53.

Kratz played a vital part in rallying the Panthers from a deficit that had grown to 19 points by late in the third quarter. He hit a 12-footer for the first Hancock points of the fourth quarter, followed by a 3-pointer to pull the score to 52-44 with 3:13 left. On the next possession, Kratz saved a rebound from going out of bounds and pushed it into the hands of Josh Unger, who drained a 3 to make it 52-47. Kratz hit a pair of free throws to make it 52-49 and made two steals in the final two minutes.

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"(Kratz) is mostly a reserve, but we were struggling with our half-court defense," said Hancock coach Ron Hose. "We needed to look to other guys for help."

Hancock trailed the entire game until Steven Beaver hit a 3 to tie it at 56-56 and Unger gave the Panthers (3-4) their first lead on a driving layup for a 58-57 edge with 30 seconds left.

Clear Spring (4-2) evened the score at the free-throw line, but Unger once again took the lead by hitting the front end of a 1-and-1 for a 59-58 edge in the final six seconds. The second shot rimmed out to Clear Spring's Jordan Thurber, who called a timeout, but the Blazers failed to get a shot off before time expired after the inbound.

"At the end of the third quarter, I was thinking, 'This is bad. It's not going to happen. We need a miracle,'" Kratz said. "Then at about the middle of the fourth quarter, I thought we could do it."

Unger led all scorers with 20 points to go with nine rebounds, while Beaver hit three fourth-quarter 3s and finished with 11. Jacob Foreman had eight points, six rebounds and six blocks.

Clear Spring hit just one field goal and scored 13 points over the final 10 minutes of the game. The Blazers led 16-4 after the first quarter and 34-22 at halftime while holding a 25-10 rebounding advantage. They ended with a 40-26 edge, which was wasted.

"You can't question the integrity of Hancock. You have to question ours," said Clear Spring coach Mark Shives. "We have yet to play (well) with a lead this year. We just didn't execute."

Keith Gilchrist and Thurber each had 16 points for Clear Spring. Thurber had 10 rebounds and Cody Englehart hauled in eight, including six on the offensive end.

The Panthers advance to the title game tonight against two-time defending champion Southern Fulton, which scored 14 of the last 19 points of the game to top Berkeley Springs 41-34.

"Even though it might not look like it, we're getting better at closing out games," said Southern Fulton coach Kent Hendershot. "It might not look pretty, but we're getting it done."

Southern Fulton was in control for much of the first half and took a 23-13 lead at halftime. But Berkeley Springs opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run for a 25-23 advantage - its first lead since the 1:54 mark in the first quarter.

After a timeout, Southern Fulton (6-3) finally got on the board in the third quarter when Lucas Mellott hit a 10-footer at the right baseline.

"Basically, it was time to get our heads out of our butts and start executing," Hendershot said. "We were very lethargic and didn't box out. We didn't do anything."

Berkeley Springs (0-5) led twice more, but Josh Hall's 3-pointer gave Southern Fulton a 30-29 lead with 7:12 remaining. That score started a 9-0 run to give Southern Fulton control.

Mellott finished with team highs of 17 points and nine rebounds, while Hall finished with 10 points for Southern Fulton.

Joseph Wright had 11 points, Leonard Roach had nine and Zach Turner had eight points and 10 rebounds for Berkeley Springs.

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