CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Daniel Alkire didn’t care where his Hampshire team was seeded in the Class AAA state tournament.
Alkire simply wanted the Trojans to have an opportunity to play in Charleston, which they earned with a victory in a Region I co-final. But when Hampshire was seeded eighth and matched up with top seed Robert C. Byrd, few people would have predicted a lengthy stay for the Trojans in the Capital City.
“Seedings and rankings don’t mean anything,” Alkire said.
Perhaps not, but they seemed to matter until Wednesday.
Behind a stellar effort from Drew Keckley and solid defensive play, the Trojans defeated the Eagles 53-47 in a state quarterfinal at the Charleston Coliseum. It marked the first win for a No. 8 seed in state tournament play. No. 8 seeds had been 0-45 until Hampshire broke through.
“It’s how you go out and play,” Alkire said. “We don’t look into seedings. We know who we are. We know what we can do.”
What the Trojans (15-4) did was overcome a 39-34 deficit with 7:09 remaining to earn a spot in a semifinal Friday against the winner of No. 4 Nitro/No. 5 Wheeling Central.
“The last thing that we talked about before we came out of the locker room was that we learned today the seeding didn’t mean anything,” Eagles’ coach Bill Bennett said. “We saw our friends from fairmont (No. 2 seed Fairmont Senior) stumble and we kind of followed suit.”
After Bryson Lucas’ three-pointer put RCB (13-2) up five less than 1 minute into the fourth quarter, the Trojans prevented the Eagles from scoring again until another Lucas triple with 2:12 remaining. A pair of foul shots from Keckley gave Hampshire its first lead of the second half at 40-39 with 5:15 left. Keckley added a pair of jump shots within 10 seconds of each other to stretch the advantage to five, and it grew to seven on Mikhi Anderson’s follow-up basket with 3:01 left.
Still, the Eagles had a chance after Lucas’ third and final three of the final quarter allowed them to trail 48-45 with 40 seconds left. But one possession after questionable decision making resulted in Anderson’s missed three-pointer, Keckley tried one himself — and made it with 29 seconds remaining.
“As any coach would be, I’m saying, ‘bad shot, bad shot, great shot.’ Anymore, it’s a respect thing and we talk things out,” Alkire said. “They’re smart. They know their shots. Fortunately the second one went in.”
Anderson’s two free throws with 13 seconds left provided the final margin.
The Trojans made 12-of-15 foul shots, while the Eagles finished 5 of 15.
“Sometimes we were our own worst enemies,” Bennett said.
Neither team led by more than six throughout a competitive opening half, though the Trojans finished on an 8-2 run to overcome their largest deficit of the game and tie it at 25 entering halftime.
While RCB got 10 first-half points from Lucas and shot nearly 50 percent (11 of 23), the Eagles hurt their cause with nine turnovers as they struggled with Hampshire’s fullcourt pressure.
“Defense and pressing is what we’ve built ourselves on,” Alkire saiod. “Regardless of who we’re playing, we’re going to do what we do and that’s press. Our last defensive play is our first offensive play. We’re going to try and get out and run. That usually happens off long misses, turnovers and steals. We preach defense and we know what we have defensively.”
Lucas’ three started the second-half scoring and the Eagles never trailed in the period, matching their largest lead of the game on a Gavin Kennedy triple before settling for a 36-32 advantage entering the fourth.
Keckley had 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
“I’m not one to sit here and talk about myself,” Keckley said. “It all came from my teammates. They picked me up in the first half when we were down and needed points. In the second half, I found opportunities and took what I could get.”
Trevor Sardo added 12 points, while Anderson finished with nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds — helping Hampshire out-rebound RCB, 34-28.
“Each person has a role that helps our team in a different way,” Sardo said.
Lucas finished with 25 points and eight rebounds. Jeremiah King added 10 points. Outside of that duo, the Eagles made only 5-of-28 shots.
“I’m disappointed for these guys,” Bennett said. “They’ve had a tremendous season. I feel like I let them down tonight. Most of the responsibility is on me. My job is to make sure they’re ready to play.”