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Cato's defense rolls for 'Dogs

January 26, 2008|By JOHN O'BRIEN

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Martinsburg's Brandon Cato might not know what to expect out of his own hands sometimes, but he's pretty good at anticipating what his opponent's will do.

So when Cato bricked a wide-open layup in the second half on Friday night, he decided to use his defense to redeem himself. And it helped the No. 3 Martinsburg boys basketball team earn a third comeback win against sixth-ranked Jefferson this year.

"After I missed that layup, I had to review myself and tell myself I could do it," said Cato, who scored 11 points in the 69-68 win. "Defense was the key to this one."

Eleven Martinsburg steals made up half of Jefferson's 22 turnovers and the Bulldogs (12-3) turned a five-point halftime deficit into a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

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It started with a 3-pointer from George Chase, then Isaac Thornton (20 points) nailed another 90 seconds later that cut Jefferson's lead to 37-36. Jefferson (7-4) turned the ball over and Cato coasted in for what looked like the go-ahead basket.

Instead, he misfired, just as he had done late in a loss against Morgantown earlier this season.

It sparked the Cougars, who went ahead 44-38 on a putback by Vance Hosby, who had 33 points. But things changed completely when Thornton hit a 3-pointer, Tevin Walker came up with a steal and found Cato for a layup and Michael Cole hit a pair of free throws after another steal to tie the game.

The run continued with another Bulldog steal, and Cameron Cato hit a pair of free throws to pull the Bulldogs ahead. He scored again after another steal, and Brandon Cato capped the run after picking off a pass and taking it in for a layup.

The 9-0 run took only 1:45 and left Jefferson behind 50-44. Brandon Cato led the team with three steals.

"Quick hands," Cato credited. "I just know where they're going with the ball."

Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers also praised Cato's quickness.

"He's very, very quick," Rogers said. "I think our defensive pressure was the key, and it made the difference. You have to give these kids a lot of credit. They could've dropped their heads and folded, but they didn't."

The Cougars attempted a late comeback in the fourth quarter when they narrowed a 63-56 margin to 65-64. Dewey McDonald (14 points) converted two steals into layups to put Jefferson in position to go ahead, but Cole hit a free throw to make it 66-64 with 50 seconds left, and McDonald missed a jumper.

Thornton missed from the line, but a pass overshot Hosby down low and he landed out of bounds. Brandon Cato hit a free throw with 34 seconds left, and Casey Johnson scored in transition to make it 67-66 with 27 seconds left.

Thornton nailed a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left, and Justin Fagan's 3-point attempt bounced off the rim. Domonique Jones scored on the putback with only 2 seconds left for the final margin.

Bob Starkey's team has lost double-digit leads in all three games against Martinsburg this year. Jefferson led 27-17 in the second quarter.

"We've done a few things different each time," Starkey said. "Way too many turnovers -- I think that's obvious. That was the story in all three."

He also noted a 27-10 difference in free throw attempts. Martinsburg made 14 to his team's five, and Hosby shot just three despite his offensive outburst. He also grabbed 15 rebounds.

"We controlled the boards. That kept us in the game," Starkey said. "We didn't control the foul line."

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