AAA: Martinsburg charges into title game
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Donte' Grantham was starting to have flashbacks, and didn't like what he saw. So he did his best to help change it.
Grantham provided 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots Friday night and No. 1 seed Martinsburg held on in the waning seconds for a 45-42 victory over Eastern Panhandle neighbor Washington in the Class AAA semifinals at the Civic Center.
Washington (21-6), making its first state tournament appearance, trailed by seven points with 1:19 left, but had possession with 4.4 seconds remaining and trailing by three.
Keldon Bell got a good look at a straightaway 3-pointer from 25 feet, but the ball banked off the glass and the rim at the buzzer, allowing an escape for the Bulldogs (25-2), who advance to tonight's 7:15 finals.
"It's good to win,'' said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. "The guy who asked if you'd rather win ugly or lose pretty probably didn't coach. It wasn't pretty at times, but we'll still take it.''
The Bulldogs burst into leads of 10-0 and 20-9 early in the game, but their offense never appeared to get fully in synch and the Patriots kept clawing back.
When Washington's Bell drained a 3 from the left corner with 52 seconds left, the lead was down to 44-42.
Grantham, a 6-foot-7 senior and Division I prospect being evaluated by several schools, including West Virginia, said he started to think back to last year's 53-51 state tournament semifinal loss to George Washington, in which Martinsburg led by eight points with 31/2 minutes left.
"The same kind of scenario was happening,'' Grantham said. "They were cutting the lead down a little bit. I wanted to change it, change what happened [last year] and play hard.
"I just wanted to go inside and make easy baskets. In the first game [on Wednesday], I was looking for the 3 too much.''
Grantham hit 9 of 16 shots, including a pair of breakaway slam dunks, as he played all 32 minutes. He was the only Bulldog to score more than seven points.
It marked the fourth victory of the season for Martinsburg over its backyard rival.
The Patriots suffered eight of their 13 turnovers in the first quarter and shot 26 percent in the first half in falling behind by double digits. But guard Dominique Newman scored nine of his 15 points in the second half to get things rolling.
Washington actually had two chances to tie in the final minute.
After Bell's 3 from the corner to make it 44-42, Martinsburg spread the floor to run clock, but Jordan Robinson thought he had an open path to the basket and darted in for a layup. He was whistled for charging into Maleke Jones, however, and Washington got the ball with 18 seconds remaining.
Newman's driving attempt missed, Jalen Lewis rebounded for Martinsburg and was fouled with 7.7 seconds to go. He made the first but missed the second, leading to Washington's last-ditch try from Bell.
"I said before the game if we kept it in the 40s and 50s, we had a chance to win,'' said Patriots coach Don Bullett, "and we had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Like [Thursday], we got off to a slow start and didn't do a very good job against their pressure . . . but for the most part we kept battling, and that's why we were still in the game.
"If someone beats you four times, they're better than you, but I still think on a given night we can beat them. I'm happy with our effort down here. We played two games and competed in two games. We've got everybody back next year - we played two juniors and four sophomores - so next year, you'll see an even better team.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.