Pendleton County (22-0) withstood a 15-point fourth period rally by the Yellow Jackets which tied the game with a minute and change remaining before claiming the Class A Region II Section 2 Championship title on the free throw line for a 61-56 victory keeping the undefeated record intact last Friday in Petersburg.
This was the fourth meeting between these teams with the Wildcats winning each contest.
“We’ve talked all season long, summer after summer with this group, the juniors and seniors especially, how special it is. The goal all along was to win the sectional championship and to host and we’ve been auditioning all year long. That’s what has kept us level, trying to keep that undefeated talk down, because ultimately an undefeated regular season means nothing,” Pendleton County Ryan Lambert commented.
“Right now though, we have taken our first meaningful step. That meaningful step leads to our next important step of the year which is Wednesday night’s regional game that we get to host. That was our goal we set out at the beginning of the year, not to be undefeated, but to host a regional game. That’s where we are at tonight. We are going to enjoy this tonight and tomorrow, but this weekend you recalibrate and you get ready for next week. Pendleton County has never been to Charleston, never been to the state tournament. This is only the second or third time in our history winning the section championship. We hosted and lost to Tucker County a few years ago in the region championship. We’re proud and we’re happy with the work and the hours we put in paying off. Moorefield made it extremely tough tonight, they could have folded. It got to 12 or 13 points at one point and we want to push it, but there was one layup we missed on a back door and they got a run out. Defensively they rationed up their pressure. Kudos to them and the heart they played with tonight never giving up. They have nothing to hang their heads about, their effort was fantastic.”
After a defensive rebound by Moorefield’s Coleman Mongold, Thomas Williams drew a foul and notched two free throws at the 7:21 mark of the final stanza with the Wildcats holding a 44-31 advantage.
The Yellow Jackets (11-14) pressure forced Pendleton County’s Bailey Thompson to commit a turnover with a double dribble violation.
Moorefield missed the next two field goal attempts with both bouncing out of bounds, then Mongold swiped the ball and made a layup at the 6:38 mark.
Eight seconds later, Pendleton County’s Colt Smith made one of two foul shots.
A timeout was called, then Moorefield’s Chase Vance crashed into Pendleton County defender Isaiah Gardiner when pulling up for a jumper and completed an old-fashioned three-point play cutting the deficit to 45-36 at 6:20 as the crowd roared.
It was standing room only as the packed gym was rocking with noise for both squads throughout the game.
Mongold stole the ball again and fed Williams for a basket just ten seconds afterwards.
Thompson lost the ball out of bounds and Vance executed another three-point play as the Yellow Jackets made it a two possession championship contest with 5:51 remaining, 45-41.
Thompson drew a foul four seconds later and added two free throws for Pendleton County.
Gardiner was fouled during a rebound and made one free throw for a 48-41 Wildcats lead with 5:33 to go.
The Yellow Jackets hit the rim and the ricochet was tipped to Williams, who assisted Mongold on a bucket at 5:10.
Pendleton County’s Josh Alt netted a putback on the ensuing possession for a 50-43 edge.
Vance was fouled and missed the free throw, but Trevor Shoemaker collected the board and the next Yellow Jackets shot went awry with the board hauled in by Yosef Malaki.
A collision in the paint caused an errant shot without a foul with Gardiner snatching the rebound before being whistled for a charge on the other end of the floor.
Mongold made a drive inside flipping the ball up in the air as defensive contact was made scoring the field goal and sinking the charity stripe shot for a 50-46 score with 3:52 left.
The Wildcats missed two free throws on their next series and Moorefield came back with a jumper from Vance for a two-point game at 3:28, 50-48.
“They just showed what they have all year, is that they have heart and they don’t quit. They’re not going to quit, no matter how much they are down by. We are going to fight until the end. They did what they did all year which was fighting back and give us a chance to win at the end. We knew their bigs were good and that’s who we needed to stop. We didn’t execute too great, but we came back and gave us a chance to win at the end,” Moorefield Boys Basketball coach Scott Stutler remarked.
“We didn’t expect [Bailey Thompson] him to step out and hit those threes, but he did and we had to close out on him and get a hand up. We had to make sure he didn’t get any more open looks. The atmosphere was great. I told the kids in the locker room after the game, that is what you want a packed gym. You want everybody screaming and that is a great atmosphere to play in. They gave that crowd a show. That was good. This isn’t the loss that sends us home, we are still in it. Notre Dame is a good team, they are always top notch. We are going to go up there and play like we have and give it everything we have. We are going to play hard and we are going to battle and try to win at Notre Dame.”
There were a combined seven missed field goal over the next minute and change before Pendleton County’s Alt netted one free throw with 1:50 on the clock.
Thompson collected the rebound and dished back to Alt for a jumper putting the Wildcats up 53-48.
The Yellow Jackets responded with a 3-pointer by Williams with 1:19 remaining, 53-51.
Moorefield’s pressure caused a five second inbound violation for a turnover, then Vance’s inbound pass to Williams setup the game-tying layup with 1:15 to go, 53-all.
“It was just the mentality for our team the whole game, I love these guys. We battled all year. We’ve been underdogs all season and nobody expected us to even be in this game. We knew we could pressure them and get to them. Everybody that was out there gave 100 percent and I couldn’t be more proud of the boys. It was great for my senior year to have an atmosphere like that. To score the bucket to tie the game and the place was going crazy. All I was thinking was thank God and thank my teammates,” Moorefield senior Thomas Williams remarked.
“[State berth opportunity] I am kind of speechless about that, because all my career that is what we have been working towards. For my senior year to finally have a shot at going to state, we battled through East Hardy and tonight, but we know the one that matters is at Notre Dame. We know they are really good, but we are going to come out ready and not be afraid. We will give it our best shot and hopefully go to state.”
Laird Sweet answered with a basket for the Wildcats regaining the lead with one minute left.
Sweet garnered a defensive rebound and passed to Alt, who was fouled and connected on both free throws to give Pendleton County a 57-53 edge with 46 seconds.
Gardiner fouled out during the ensuing series as Moorefield’s Vance hit one of two free throws with 38 seconds remaining and Alt grabbed the board before a timeout was called ten seconds later.
A quick foul by Williams put Sweet on the charity stripe with 27 seconds on the board and both foul shots were made for a 59-54 lead.
The Yellow Jackets had a perimeter shot careen off the rim and a scramble for the ball along the baseline saw Thompson diving for a save with the ball hitting the leg of Williams as one foot was out of bounds causing Pendleton County to retain possession with eight seconds left.
After drying up the court, Sweet was fouled with six seconds to go and notched both free throws.
Vance netted the final basket for the Yellow Jackets hitting a jumper just before the buzzer sounded with Pendleton County winning the section championship 61-56.
“I told you at Tucker County, we have the biggest heart there is and that’s still true and it showed today, but we just didn’t come out on top. Notre Dame is a good team, but as long as we do the little things we will win and go to Charleston,” Moorefield senior Chase Vance said.
The Wildcats celebrated with the fans and one player lifted and spun one of the assistant coaches around as Moorefield looked at the scoreboard in disbelief.
Bailey Thompson scored a game-high 28 points for Pendleton County, while the Yellow Jackets were guided by Chase Vance with 23 points and Thomas Williams with 16 points.
“I’ve never really cared about points. This has been our goal since I was a freshman on this team. We were just trying to win the section championship and ultimately go to state. This is a good win, but we have to win next week against Trinity and take a trip to Charleston. [Undefeated] I’m at a loss for words right now about it. It’s an amazing feeling,” Pendleton County senior Bailey Thompson noted.
Moorefield will travel to Notre Dame for the Class A Region II Championship on Wednesday night as the Wildcats host Trinity Christian with the winners earning a state tournament berth.
The Class A Region II Section 2 Championship started on the free throw line due to a dunking violation technical foul by Pendleton County in the warm-up session, so Moorefield’s Thomas Williams stepped up to the line nailing both free throws for the initial lead.
Thompson and Mongold collected defensive rebounds, then Vance tried to corral an offensive board and the ball was nudged out of his hands by Sweet out of play for a turnover.
A double dribble was called on Thompson, then Williams drew a foul and added one of two free throws giving the Yellow Jackets a 3-nil lead at the 6:14 mark of the first period.
Sweet snatched the rebound off the second free throw attempt and notched a field goal on the other side at 5:59.
Williams made a behind-the-back pass to Jaydon See, who passed to Mongold and a defensive foul was made by Thompson.
Moorefield’s Brent Moran attempted to break through a trap with the ball not elevating enough to reach the rim with a turnover caused, then Thompson was fouled and made both free throws to give Pendleton County a 4-3 lead at 4:54.
The Yellow Jackets regained the lead at 4:42 as Vance made a fake in the lane and scored underneath the basket.
Moran collected a defensive rebound, then Alt blocked a shot and Moorefield forced a jump ball.
Thompson netted a basket to put the Wildcats back on top sparking a 13-nil run, then Moran tripped and was called for a walk falling to the floor.
Gardiner made a layup, then Sweet hauled in a defensive rebound and Thompson was sent to the free throw line for two foul shots added to the Wildcats lead 10-5.
Alt blocked Vance and Gardiner picked up the loose ball with a pass to Thompson for a bucket.
After a charge called on Moran, Thompson knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:25 left in the first period putting Pendleton County ahead 15-5.
Both teams missed baskets and the Yellow Jackets fouled twice before a shot by Pendleton County’s Tanner Townsend was partially blocked by Levi Thompson with enough momentum to go through the hoop with five seconds remaining, 17-5.
The Yellow Jackets lost the ball in the waning seconds of the quarter.
Moorefield opened the second period with a jumper by Vance, then the Wildcats answered with a 3-pointer by Bailey Thompson at 7:10 for a 20-7 lead.
A little momentum went in the Yellow Jackets favor scoring six points in the next minute of action starting with a layup by Vance, defensive rebound by Vance and a jumper by Vance.
Vance stole the ball and missed the ensuing shot, but Williams was trailing on the play to collect the carom and garner the basket at 5:36 as the deficit was cut to 20-13.
Vance and Sweet made defensive rebounds, then a block attempt by Levi Thompson didn’t prevent the ball from finding the basket off a shot by Bailey Thompson at 4:53 with a foul on the play by Mongold.
Moorefield’s Jaydon See collected the rebound off the missed free throw, then hauled in an offensive rebound and scored at the 4:17 mark, 22-15.
Williams snatched a defensive board and found Vance for a jumper on the ensuing possession.
Bailey Thompson responded with a trifecta at the 2:59 mark as the Wildcats went up 25-17.
Williams lofted a shot above Alt for a Yellow Jackets bucket inside the paint at 2:29.
Pendleton County’s Colt Smith executed an old-fashioned three-point play on the next series and Moorefield answered with a pair of foul shots made by Moran for a 28-21 score with 1:34 remaining in the first half which was carried into halftime after several turnovers didn’t add to the scoreboard.
In the opening minute of the second half, Bailey Thompson netted a jumper for Pendleton County and Mongold made a steal for the Yellow Jackets and went in for a layup.
Bailey Thompson and Gardiner sandwiched three-point plays for the Wildcats around a jumper by Moran for a 36-25 lead at the 5:40 mark of the third period.
An assist from Vance to See for a field goal in the paint cut the deficit further at 5:13, 36-27.
Over the next four minutes, the Wildcats added six more points with Moorefield struggling to keep possession and having a couple shots blocked by Thompson and Gardiner.
Vance hit a jumper with 48 seconds to go in the third period, but Pendleton County held a 42-25 lead.
The Wildcats recorded two more free throws by Gardiner in between two missed field goals by Moorefield as the third period closed with a 44-29 score.
The Yellow Jackets swarmed back to tie the game in the fourth period, but Pendleton County stymied the comeback down the stretch to grab the title win.