CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Survive and advance is the name of the game in March. That’s just what Class AAA No. 1 Martinsburg did in Friday’s semifinal, holding off a late rally by No. 4 Capital to win 60-57.
“The bottom line is it’s the end result that counts,” Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers said.
The victory sends Martinsburg (27-0) into Saturday’s title game at 7:15 p.m. against the winner of University/Cabell Midland.
Karrington Hill had a late look at a 3-pointer to tie it that was on-line, but missed off the back rim.
“I tried to have mental toughess and set my feet to get a good shot,” Hill said. “You won’t make all of them, but I want to shoot that shot again.”
While the Bulldogs led for the final 28:15, the win did not come without its fair share of pressure-packed moments. Martinsburg carried a 42-35 lead into the fourth quarter and upped the advantage to nine on a Tre Segar layup with 4:20 remaining.
But Capital (21-6) went on an 8-0 run over the next 55 seconds, getting two 3s from Hill and a David Taylor layup off a steal.
“We gave them everything we had and didn’t have quite enough to get over the hump and finish the game,” Capital coach Matt Greene said. “They kept fighting. You saw it last night and tonight. They grind it out and kept working.”
Martinsburg answered with a 6-0 sput to regain a seven-point advantage, which Kerion Martin quickly trimmed to three on consecutive buckets off drives to the basket. The Bulldogs’ lead was two when Teryn Villa scored inside to double it with 58 seconds left, but Martin answered with a conventional three-point play to bring Capital to within 58-57 with 39 seconds on the clock.
Grant Harman then finished from close range with 21 seconds to play for what proved to be the game’s final points.
“My heart kind of dropped,” Harman said of his late bucket that bounced off the rim several times. “I was sitting there hoping it would go in, but I had to take the shot. I was open.”
The Bulldogs scored the final seven points of the first quarter to open up an 18-10 lead. Harman hit a pair of 3s in the second quarter that helped MHS hold a 30-21 advantage, but the Cougars’ Ethan Kent connected on a 3 for the final points of the half.
“I felt like if we could hit some shots, we’d be OK,” Greene said. “And we hit some shots and got going, we just couldn’t get over that hump. I wish we had about three more minutes to play tonight.”
Villa scored eight of his team’s 12 points in the third quarter and made consecutive layups that allowed the Bulldogs to hold their biggest lead of the game — 40-27 — at the 2:38 mark. Martin and Hill answered with back-to-back triples and the Cougars went into the fourth quarter trailing by seven.
“Capital is a very quick, physical and athletic team,” Rogers said. “The most athletic team we’ve played all year. The pressure caused us some problems. At the end, we did a good job of scoring it once we beat the pressure. Anytime someone presses, you have to make them pay.”
Forty of the Bulldogs’ 60 points were scored in the paint. Villa led the way with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
“We all know that we can do great things and if we just stick together, we’ll be fine,” Villa said. Harman added 14 points to go with four assists, while Teddy Marshall scored 10 points on a 10-for-11 effort at the free-throw line. Martin scored a game-high 23 points in defeat, while Hall had 12 off the bench. Martinsburg is now one win away from an unbeaten season and its first AAA title since 2013.