KEYSER - For fans of the Keyser Lady Tornado basketball squad, and for the players and coaches, it seemed like forever since the Black and Gold had played. And to some extent, it had been. Since last playing in Orlando on Dec. 29, Keyser had played only one game, and that was back on Jan. 8.
The wait was worth it.
On Friday, Keyser hosted Fort Hill in a matchup of two of the area’s best teams. Four quarters was not enough to claim a victory. In took an extra period, in overtime, but in the end, Keyser came out victorious by a score of 56-50.
“It’s always good to get a win against a quality opponent in the area. Defensively, that first half was our best half of the year. We knew what Fort Hill wanted to do offensively, and I thought we did a great job of executing our defensive game plan, Keyser coach Josh Blowe stated.
According to Blowe, “We were taking away the three-point shot and limiting their second chance opportunities. They only had four second chance points in the first half. I thought we played outstanding defense, to hold that caliber of team to making just three field goals in the first half was outstanding.”
The first half did indeed belong to Keyser, and it was a relatively low scoring start. Fort Hill edged Keyser narrowly in the first quarter, claiming a 10-8 advantage after the first eight minutes of play. Keyser, however, responded by dominating play in the second quarter.
The Golden Tornado scored 14 points and held the Lady Sentinels to just two points in the second frame, allowing Keyser to take a 22-12 lead entering the locker rooms at halftime.
The tables turned a bit in the second half, however.
“We got a little sloppy with the ball in the third quarter and we did not rebound at all, I was very disappointed. We knew they were bigger than us, we knew that going into the game their size could really bother us. But it didn’t, until that third quarter. They got to the foul line a good bit in the third quarter,” Blowe explained.
According to Blowe, “They were really being aggressive, and most of that was coming off second and third chance opportunities. Fort Hill tied the game with us at 32 points apiece, then Summer Reid hit a big three pointer to put us up 35-32 at the end of the third quarter.”
Then came the fourth quarter, an eight minute period that would see the two end deadlocked to force the extra overtime session.
“They made a couple big shots, a couple deep threes, a couple pressure threes. Give them a lot of credit for making those shots,” Blowe stated. “When the game went to overtime, it was the second time we’ve went into overtime, the first time we lost. To turn it around and get the win in overtime against a good team, that was big.”
According to Blowe, “I knew if we could make a couple shots and rebound we could win, and we did just enough. They were trying to hold the ball for the last shot with about 1:30 to go in overtime, and Summer Reid came from the backside, stripped the ball, and took it in for a layup. That really got us over the hump, that was big in a tie-game situation.”
The Lady Tornado outscored the Lady Sentinels by six in overtime to claim the 56-50 victory.
“Our scoring was ultra-balanced, we had four players in double figures. Then Janiah Layton went to the free throw line to seal the deal at the end. One thing that was huge, Aly Smith and Maddie Harvey both had double-doubles. Aly, for being undersized in her matchups, she played amazing, really battled her heart out,” Blowe explained.
Keyser was led by Summer Reid with 15 points, followed by Aly Smith with 12 points, Alexa Shoemaker with 11 points, and Maddie Harvey with 10 points. In addition, Janiah Layton added five points, Averi Everline four points, and Maddy Broadwater one point.
In the loss, Fort Hill displayed a balanced attack as well. Carly Bennett led the Sentinels with 12 points, Kayijah George followed in double figures with 10 points, and Olivia Looker and Brooklyne Noel tallied nine points each. In addition, Karlie O’Neal added eight points, and Alazyzia Trimble two points.
Keyser (6-4) now faces a busy week, with matchups against sectional rivals Hampshire and Berkeley Springs, and Frankfort. Blowe hopes the momentum from the Fort Hill victory will serve as a spark for Keyser this week.
“When you get a win, you hope it will give you confidence and that you will continue to do well and rise to the occasion in big game. The good thing is, we have a playoff-type game on Monday at Hampshire. We’re hoping to take this momentum into that game. I’m sure they will have a great crowd there, and they’re going to be motivated on their home court,” Blowe explained.
This article originally appeared on Mineral Daily News-Tribune: Worth the wait: Lady Tornado bests Fort Hill 56-50