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Bridgeport's style doesn't cross 'Dogs

March 11, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Martinsburg finally had enough of Bridgeport's stubborn attitude.

Everyone, except those playing, expected the Indians would be an afterthought in Tuesday's West Virginia Class AAA Region II confrontation.

Martinsburg overcame a bit of nervousness that hung from the opening tip to the start of the fourth period to snuff pesky Bridgeport for a 50-34 victory to give the Bulldogs a berth in next week's state tournament in Charleston.

"The beauty of the game is that (Bridgeport) did what they thought they had to do to win the game," Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers said of the 12-13 Indians.

Martinsburg (25-2) led 29-12 with just over four minutes remaining in the third period after a dunk by Cameron Cato. Still, the persistent Indians would not relent.

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A bucket by Jerome Axton, who led Bridgeport with 14 points, to start the fourth quarter sliced the Martinsburg lead to 31-24, clearly frustrating the Bulldogs and their fans.

Six-foot-9 Michael Cole provided the needed turning point. Cole hit a bucket, then missed a free throw, but the Bulldogs retained possession as Bridgeport was called for a foul away from the basket.

Cole then converted a conventional three-point play to put the Bulldogs back on top 36-26 with 5 minutes left.

From that point, Martinsburg's defense took over, forcing a string of five turnovers with its pressure trap that ignited a 10-2 run to nail down the trip to Charleston.

"We're a good defensive team and we were able to overplay them," said Rogers.

Bridgeport's game plan was an obvious attempt to use as much clock as possible to stay in the game. Proof was easy as the game's first 2:15 went scoreless highlighted by the Indians passing up a 2-on-1 scoring opportunity.

Cole and Cam Cato each had six points in the first half as Martinsburg struggled to a 19-8 lead.

"With how they were running around offensively, I think they took a lot of energy out of us when we were on offense," said Cole.

"We'd have to play defense for two minutes and then we'd have nothing on offense," said Rogers. "Some of the players said at the half they thought they played the entire first half on defense."

The Bulldogs spent most of that energy well as they forced Bridgeport into 20 turnovers while the offense took care of the rock by committing only seven.

And on a night when leading scorr Isaac Thornton was off with only five points, the Bulldogs relied on their additional support.

Cato ended with 14 points and five steals and Cole had 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Martinsburg held a 27-19 rebounding advantage.

"My whole team is good. ... Anybody can score," said Thornton, who was 2-for-8 and added five rebounds. "This team pitches in together as a whole. I'm glad to be going to states again."

Martinsburg will play a yet-to-be-determined opponent to open its second consecutive trip to Charleston.

Martinsburg 50, Bridgeport 34
BRIDGEPORT (12-13)

Carey 4, Tonkery 4, Johnson 6, Axton 14, Kornbrath 2, Furbee 4. Totals 15 3-3 34.
MARTINSBURG (25-2)
Rogers 2, Thornton 5, Hairston 2, Walker 4, Cato 14, Cole 13, Mohamed 8, Cook 2. Totals 17 13-18 50.
Bridgeport 2 6 13 13 -- 34
Martinsburg 9 10 10 21 -- 50
3-point goals -- Bridgeport 1 (Axton); Martinsburg 3 (Mohamed 2, Thornton).

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