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Indians end 19-year drought, return to Charleston tonight

March 05, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

The Berkeley Springs girls basketball team will finish this season at the same place the Indians started it - at the Charleston Civic Center - in the West Virginia Class AA state tournament for the first time since 1989.

Riding an eight-game winning streak Berkeley Springs (17-7) - seeded fourth - will face fifth-seeded Weir (12-11) tonight at 9 in the quarterfinals.

"This has been a year with a lot of neat steps and milestones," Indians coach Dale McCumbee said. "We've beaten some teams I'd never defeated in my career, and winning a regional championship has been a goal of mine for 17 years. I couldn't have asked for a better group to have experienced it with. This group of girls have been working so hard. I've been around most of them since they were second graders. It's been a neat ride and a neat experience."

Berkeley Springs defeated Frankfort 62-54 in the Region II Section 2 final and Petersburg 48-38 in the Region II final to reach Charleston. In their final regular-season game, the Indians stunned Jefferson - which went on to qualify for the Class AAA state tournament - 53-51 on Feb. 16. The Cougars were playing without leading scorer and rebounder Dakeea Marshall.

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Weir enters the state tournament having upset Tyler Consolidated - a top-five Class AA team for most of the year - in the Region III final.

"We couldn't have asked for a better pairing," McCumbee said. "All year, we were ranked seventh to 10th in polls in AA. With the big upsets, it was great for us to get that fourth seed."

McCumbee pointed to a 45-35 overtime loss to Martinsburg on Jan. 30 as the spark that ignited the Indians, who haven't lost since.

"It really seemed to pull the team together," McCumbee said. "We started playing more as a team, with different kids contributing. If one kid struggles, someone else steps up. We've stressed team, team, team and it's come through. Defensively, they're starting to do a much better job."

Offensively, Berkeley Springs has three main scoring threats - Amber Booher (11.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.6 steals through regular season), Alex Tamez (11.0 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 steals) and Jess Haynes (10.9 points, 2.1 steals).

The Indians have played in the season-opening Hamlin Hoops Classic for the past few seasons, and McCumbee hopes that experience will help at states. He also hopes his players can avoid the distractions of celebrations and state tournament hype and focus on the game.

"We told them (Saturday) the community's very proud for them and is celebrating for them, but it's time to focus on the next game, and within that game, break it down to one play at a time," McCumbee said. "We try to focus on the small picture and let the town celebrate.

"I'm happy for them. This is something this group has been working for and building toward for a long time."

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