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Martinsburg wins W.Va. state title

March 21, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Martinsburg's first Class AAA championship in 15 years came down to Isaac Thornton's touch at the free-throw line.

Thornton sank two free throws with 5 seconds left to lift Martinsburg to a 53-52 win over South Charleston on Saturday night at the Charleston Civic Center.

Second-seeded Martinsburg (26-2) earned its first title since 1994, while No. 1 South Charleston (26-2) lost in the championship game for the third straight season.

The Black Eagles were held to their lowest point total of the season, primarily because of an off-shooting night from state Player of the Year Aaron Dobson, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

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"This has probably been the hardest shooting (night) I've had in a while," Dobson said. "I just couldn't get going."

Dobson had averaged nearly 32 points in two previous tournament games.

"I thought tonight we had to shut down Dobson," said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. "Even during our timeout we said, 'fellas, he's going to make a run at us and they're going to want the ball in his hands just like we want it in Isaac's hands."'

Martinsburg shot 50 percent (8-of-16) from the floor in the second half and outscored South Charleston 16-5 from the free-throw line. But the Bulldogs committed 23 turnovers that gave South Charleston chance after chance.

Dobson's 3-pointer with 22 seconds left put South Charleston ahead 52-51. Thornton hurried the ball down the court but lost it out of bounds with 13 seconds remaining.

Martinsburg then fouled Pierria Henry, who missed a free throw with nine seconds left.

"The game was in my hands. I had it," Henry said. "I let my team down."

Martinsburg got the rebound and Thornton was fouled by Dobson.

"We certainly didn't want to foul there because they were going to have to take probably a hard shot," said South Charleston Bobby Dawson. "If I get beat on that, that's fine. That's the way it goes."

Thornton said was asked what was going through his head as he attempted his free throws.

"There was a lot of things -- state championship on the line and my teammates were counting on me," Thornton said. "I just knew I had to make these free throws."

South Charleston's Tyler Harris missed a running jumper in the lane as time ran out.

Thornton finished with 15 points and Kirk Hairston added 14 for Martinsburg.

Henry had 13 points, 10 rebounds and his nine steals tied a Class AAA tournament record set by Wheeling Park's Rafael Cruz in 1997.

Dawson suffered a heart attack early in the season and his players were hoping to give him a state title to add to the one the Black Eagles won in football in December.

"We just wanted to win it for him and came up a little short today," said South Charleston's Aaron Slusher.

South Charleston hasn't won the basketball title since 1959. The Black Eagles lost to Woodrow Wilson in last year's championship game and to Huntington in 2007.

"It's not life or death now," Dawson said. "I'll try to get over it pretty quick.

"These guys are going to feel bad for a while, but I told them everybody misses shots. Everybody misses foul shots. Everybody makes mistakes. You've just got to come back and learn from it."

MARTINSBURG 53, SOUTH CHARLESTON 52
MARTINSBURG (26-2)

Rogers 0-1 0-0 0, Cato 3-5 2-2 9, Thornton 3-10 7-8 15, Cole 3-7 1-3 7, Walker 4-7 0-0 8, Mohamed 0-2 0-0 0, Hairston 4-5 6-7 14. Totals 17-37 16-20 53.
SOUTH CHARLESTON (26-2)
Dobson 4-14 2-3 12, Henry 6-13 0-1 13, Orcutt 3-5 1-1 7, Slusher 3-7 2-2 8, Peden 0-0 0-0 0, Hudson 2-5 0-0 5, Harris 3-11 0-0 7, Beatty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-55 5-7 52.
Martinsburg 6 17 18 12 -- 53
South Charleston 11 11 18 12 -- 52

3-point goals--Martinsburg 3-14 (Thornton 2-6, Cato 1-1, Rogers 0-1, Mohamed 0-1, Walker 0-2, Cole 0-3), South Charleston 5-15 (Dobson 2-6, Hudson 1-2, Harris 1-3, Henry 1-3, Orcutt 0-1). Fouled out--Dobson. Rebounds--Martinsburg 32 (Cole 11), South Charleston 25 (Henry 10). Assists--Martinsburg 13 (Walker 4), South Charleston 13 (Henry 6). Total fouls--Martinsburg 13, South Charleston 21. Technical--Rogers.

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