By Jim Butta
Special to The Times
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - No. 1 St. Marys had to overcome its mistakes as well as a hot start by No. 4 Midland Trail here Friday night, but the Blue Devils (25-1) advanced to their first state championship game since the 1988 season with a 65-62 victory in a Class A semifinal contest at the Charleston Civic Center.
JEFF BAUGHAN Special to The Times
St. Marys' Derek Renner (12) tries to grab a rebound between Midland Trail's Casey Deskins, left, and Ryan Whitlock during the Blue Devils' 65-62 win over Midland Trail Friday.
Senior K.D. Arnett scored a game-high 24 points and senior Derek Renner chipped in 19 as St. Marys overcame a 21-10 first quarter deficit to reach today's 2:30 p.m. championship game against Charleston Catholic (23-3).
"All season long, even before the season started, but especially after that first poll came out, we have been dealing with the talk about once we got to Charleston," St. Marys' head coach Mark Barnhart explained. "We haven't talked about it (a state championship) until tonight.
"It's been 40 years, but we want to make sure we enjoy every minute."
St. Marys 65, Midland Trail 62
Midland Trail 21 9 14 18-62
St. Marys 10 21 20 14-65
MIDLAND TRAIL (22-5)
Crist 2-9 0-0 5, Burdette 9-19 2-4 24, Whitlock 3-6 0-0 6, Deskins 3-5 2-3 8, Kessler 8-12 2-4 18, Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Grimmett 0-3 1-2 1, Carter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 7-13 62.
ST. MARYS (25-1)
Renner 7-19 6-6 20, Arnett 10-17 5-9 25, Cosper 0-2 0-1 0, Wichterman 4-8 0-0 8, J.Nichols 4-8 1-2 9, D.Bayless 0-3 1-2 1, A.Bayless 1-2 0-0 2, A.Nichols 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 13-20 65.
3-Point Goals-Midland Trail 5-12 (Burdette 4-6, Crist 1-4, Wilson 0-1, Grimmett 0-1), St. Marys 0-5 (Arnett 0-1, Cosper 0-1, Wichterman 0-1, D.Bayless 0-2). Fouled out-Deskins. Rebounds-Midland Trail 33 (Whitlock 8), St. Marys 37 (J.Nichols 10). Assists-Midland Trail 12 (Crist 6), St. Marys 9 (Renner 6). Total Fouls-Midland Trail 19, St. Marys 9. Technical-Midland Trail bench.
Results from the boys high school basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center:
Hedgesville 39, Wheeling Park 37, OT
Martinsburg 63, Logan 50
George Washington 71, Fairmont Senior 47
Parkersburg 62, South Charleston 48
George Washington 53, Martinsburg 51
Hedgesville 62, Parkersburg 36
No. 5 George Washington (21-6) vs No. 7 Hedgesville (22-6), 7:15 p.m.
Wyoming East 90, Point Pleasant 53
Tug Valley 86, Webster County 59
Bluefield 69, Berkeley Springs 38
Tolsia 67, Magnolia 59, 3OT
Tug Valley 68, Wyoming East 60
Bluefield 63, Tolsia 47
No. 2 Tug Valley (25-2) vs. No. 1 Bluefield (26-1), noon
Charleston Catholic 62, Man 57
Madonna 66, Trinity 53
St. Marys 67, Pocahontas County 43
Midland Trail 64, Tucker County 45
Charleston Catholic 70, Madonna 46
St. Marys 65, Midland Trail 62
No. 2 Charleston Catholic (23-3) vs. No. 1 St. Marys (25-1), 2:30 p.m.
The Blue Devils only trip to the "Championship Saturday" occurred at the end of the 1988 season. However, a 68-44 loss to Williamson forced the purple and gold to take the runner-up trophy back to Pleasants County.
For nearly a half, it appeared as if the Patriots from Midland Trail (22-5) would force them to settle for only a Final Four appearance.
"They (Midland Trail) came out hitting everything they shot," continued Barnhart.
"We just reminded our kids about the game at Williamstown, changed to our 1-3-1 trap, and started making better decisions on offense."
The Blue Devils overcame a 23-point deficit to the Yellowjackets en route to a come-from-behind victory and the defensive change would make the difference Friday night.
Led by its defense, St. Marys built a 51-44 lead after three quarters of play and then took a 54-44 lead after a three-point play by Arnett just 11 seconds into the final quarter of play. However, that lead slowly would evaporate as the Patriots' Jordan Burdette, who scored a team-high 24 points, brought his team back to within two when he hit teammate Casey Deskins with a perfect pass for a layin with 1:03 left in the game.
Two free throws by Renner and one by Derek Bayless, however, was more than enough to keep the upset-minded Patriots at bay as a last second triple came up short.
No. 4 Midland Trail looked as if it would be the second team with the Patriots as its mascot to pull off a major upset at the 99th annual W.Va. Boys State Basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center as it jumped out to an 11-2 lead over St. Marys after the game's first four minutes of action.
Arnett then put the Blue Devils on his shoulders over the final four minutes, scoring six of his team's final eight points of the quarter to pull St. Marys within 11, 21-10, heading into second quarter.
The next eight minutes belonged to the St. Marys defense.
Playing a mixture of man-to-man and 1-3-1 half court zone, the Blue Devils sliced into the Patriots' advantage, finally taking their first lead of the game on a pair of Renner free throws with 2:23 left in the first half.
The lead changed hands over the final two minutes of the half with Midland Trail regaining the advantage on a Ryan Whitlock putback at the 1:35 mark only to have St. Marys retake the lead, 29-28, on two more free throws by Renner.
A steal and a bucket by the Patriots' Burdette pushed the blue and white back into the lead, 30-29, with 42 ticks left on the clock. But, Garrett Wichterman's rebound bucket with 18 seconds showing on the clock secured a 31-30 halftime lead for the team from Pleasants County.
The top ranked Blue Devils went to work inside in the third quarter with Arnett, Wichterman and Justin Nichols helping St. Marys build a seven-point, 51-44, lead heading into the final eight minutes of action.