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Rogers helped 'Dogs get picture

March 29, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. -- Dave Rogers surveyed an empty wall in the hall known as Bull Dog Way, heading into the entrance of the Martinsburg Fieldhouse, sizing up where a super-sized team photo could be placed.

Martinsburg can finally add its second such picture -- a state championship picture -- after winning the West Virginia Class AAA crown for the first time since 1994.

Rogers knew his team was on the cusp of a title after a devastating loss to Woodrow Wilson in the state quarterfinals. The mission was accomplished when the Bulldogs defeated South Charleston 53-52 last weekend.

For the second straight season, Rogers is The Herald-Mail All-Area Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, guiding the Bulldogs to a 26-2 record, the best single season in school history.

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"I don't think the players even realize yet what they accomplished," said Rogers, who is 566-166 in his 31 years of coaching. "I knew coming into the season we had a chance, but the obstacle was this section is so tough and everyone else also had senior leadership."

In the end, it was the core of Martinsburg's seniors -- Isaac Thornton, Michael Cole, Cameron Cato, Brett Rogers, Tevin Walker and Inshan Mohamed -- along with junior Kirk Hairston that Rogers continued to shape into championship contenders.

Thornton often was the catalyst for the Bulldogs, but he had a strong supporting cast that always stepped to the forefront when duty called.

Rogers had many of the players for three years and began molding their temperament into that of a champion. By the time the season began, he had the team ready to handle any adversity. He credited the two roadtrips the team took as a key to helping continue the team concept.

Martinsburg went to South Carolina for three games and to Ohio for a pair, losing their only two games of the season in tournaments.

"We've always wanted to travel and this year was like '94 when we were 23-2 and did not lose to a team in West Virginia," said Rogers. "Trips like that give the players a sense of unity. You're sleeping in a different bed, away from home and it helps bring you together. I think that's why this team never quit on anything."

He credited that unity to giving him less stress this season.

"I didn't have to worry about them like last year," said Rogers. "I was a cheerleader. I knew they knew what to do."

Rogers, who said he still plans on coaching another five years, said this championship was just as sweet as 1994.

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