KEYSER - If we're being honest, Frankfort's one point victory over Keyser Friday night gave us all what we wanted and more in the latest chapter of this storied rivalry.

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

KEYSER - If we’re being honest, Frankfort’s one point victory over Keyser Friday night gave us all what we wanted and more in the latest chapter of this storied rivalry.

There was a barrage of seven three-pointers in the first period alone, a dunk, several nasty blocked shots, the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, unscheduled exits, fourth period lead changes, a wealth of missed foul shots at a critical time down the stretch, a technical foul, and a three-pointer literally at the buzzer to end the game.

Unfortunately for Keyser, Ryan Shoemaker’s amazing catch and shoot three-pointer as time expired still left the Golden Tornado one point short, as Frankfort defeated Keyser 48-47 to head into the Christmas break undefeated at 6-0. It was a big sectional win for Scott Slider’s Falcons, oh yeah, and a win over their arch-rival Keyser in front of a packed house on the road.

For Keyser, of course, there is disappointment in the loss, but don’t think for a minute the Black and Gold aren’t licking their chops knowing there will be other chances at redemption later this year.

“Playing at Keyser presents a challenge for us obviously because we are playing on the road. Sometimes players respond differently in away games compared to home games,” Frankfort coach Scott Slider said in pre-game comments earlier in the week.

Luckily for Slider, and the Columbia blue and silver clad fans that made the trek to Keyser, junior Jansen Knotts responded positively, and in a big way to the pressure of playing a big game on the opponent’s home court.

Knotts would lead all scorers with 17 points. He started strong and ended strong, scoring eight of his 17 points in the first period, then closed out the fourth period with a big seven point performance. Those seven points included a three point conversion play, a three-pointer, and most importantly the free throw with six seconds remaining that put the Falcons up by four points (48-44) in the waning seconds of the game. Without that free throw, Shoemaker’s three pointer at the buzzer would have tied the game and forced overtime.

Both teams played lights-out defense all night long, with neither team reaching the 50 point mark. Despite a valiant defensive effort from Keyser, Knotts was still able to hit his shots. As Frankfort’s coach Slider explains, “Jansen Knotts is a tough player to defend because he can score on the perimeter and get to the rim very well.”

Overall, however, Keyser coach John Haines Jr. was pleased with his team’s defensive performance, “Both team’s played good defense. At halftime, we told them in the locker room we had to play better defense. I did think our defense looked better than the last few games.”

Coach Slider from Frankfort cites the “defensive toughness of both teams” as the reason for Frankfort and Keyser’s stunted offensive production

The game started with a barrage of three-pointers from both teams in the first period, there were seven in total. Frankfort landed four, with the Brothers Knotts (Jansen and Isaiah) accounting for three, and Zach Whitacre one. Keyser’s three three-pointers in the period came from Jacob Biser, Reggie Redman and Jack White. Down 12-11 with under one minute to go in the first, Frankfort would hit back to back three-pointers to take a 17-12 lead into the second period.

In the second period, Keyser outscored Frankfort nine to four in the first four and a half minutes to ultimately tie the game at 21 apiece on a Marcus Price free throw with 3:23 remaining. Price accounted for seven of the nine points in that run. Jansen Knotts would then hit two free throws to give Frankfort the lead back (23-21). It was then Keyser’s Ryan Shoemaker’s turn to tie the game at 23 apiece with 1:42 remaining before the half. Frankfort would finish out the period with two point buckets from Jon Ritchie and Caleb Hare to take a 27-23 lead into halftime.

Keyser wasted no time after halftime, evening the score at 27 with two quick buckets from Brady Clay and Shawn See, just over a minute into the third period. Frankfort’s Drew Mauzy would then go on a 5-0 run of his own to lift the Falcons to a 32-27 lead with 4:26 remaining in the period. Then came Keyser’s most productive stretch of the game, an 8-0 run from 3:52 to 2:08 that was punctuated by a dunk from Marcus Price to give the Tornado a 35-32 lead, their largest of the game. As imagined, the dunk got the masses to their feet. Down three, Frankfort would respond with a free throw from Zack Whitacre and a three pointer from Isaiah Knotts to reclaim the lead at the end of three (36-35).

The excitement of the third period, complete with several lane changes, a dunk, and four dramatic blocked shots, two each from Keyser’s Shawn See and Frankfort’s Jon Ritchie, gave rise to a fever pitch atmosphere entering the final period. Both coaches agreed.

For Frankfort’s Slider, he credits the crowd and atmosphere for creating inspired play from his players. According to Slider, “The Frankfort/Keyser game always has great atmosphere, this one was no different. This helped the player’s energy level to rise even more than normal.”

Keyser’s John Haines Jr. agrees, “It was an awesome atmosphere for high school basketball, both fan bases were representing their teams great. The players were passionate and played hard.”

So next comes the fourth and final period with the fans on both sides energized from an entertaining, competitive previous eight minutes. Play begins with Frankfort up by one (36-35). One minute into the action, Keyser’s Jacob Biser hit a three-pointer give Keyser a 38-36 lead. Eighteen seconds later, not to be outdone, Frankfort’s Zack Whitacre would drain a three-pointer for the Falcons to reclaim the lead 39-38.

Over the next two minutes, the game’s high scorer Jansen Knotts would convert a three point play and then hit a three-pointer to extend Frankfort’s lead out to seven points (45-38) with 4:52 remaining. But Keyser would spring back to life, behind six unanswered points from Reggie Redman (two) and Shawn See (four), the Black and Gold would get to within one point (45-44) with 2:43 remaining.

Frankfort would struggle to make free throws all game, shooting only 35 percent from the foul line, making only eight of 23 shots. This trend continued in the waning minutes of the game. In the final minute, however, the Falcons would get the job done, but barely. David Blanco hit two free throws with 32 seconds remaining, coupled with one from Jansen Knotts with six seconds remaining. These three free throws elevated Frankfort to a four point lead with one last chance from Keyser remaining.

Ryan Shoemaker’s three-point shot at the buzzer was a thing of beauty. Brady Clay inbounded the ball by throwing it to Reggie Redman at half court. Redman passed it over to Jacob Biser who was standing near the scoring table on the home side. Biser then found a leaping Shoemaker in the right corner who caught and shot the ball in mid-air, releasing it as if it were a hot potato. The three-point bucket was good, but Frankfort exercised restraint in not fouling Shoemaker. As a result, the Falcons prevailed with the one point 48-47 victory.

The victorious Falcons were led in scoring by Jansen Knotts with 17 points. As points were scarce, no other Falcon scored in double figures. Zach Whitacre added seven points as did Drew Mauzy. David Blanco and Isaiah Knotts added six points apiece with Jon Ritchie (two), Caleb Hare (two) and Dalton Pollock (one) rounding out the scoring.

For Keyser, Marcus Price netted a team high 14 points followed by Reggie Redman with nine. Jacob Biser and Shawn See added six apiece, Jack White and Ryan Shoemaker finished with five points each, and Brady Clay closed out the scoring with two points.

Frankfort was also victorious in the junior varsity game, winning 36-32. Chris Kenney led the way with the Falcons with 11 points, followed by Will Toye and Jansen Moreland with seven each. Brady Whitacre contributed six, Brock Robinette four, and Bryceton Daubenmire with one. Darius Redman had a team high 11 points for Keyser, followed by Logan Proud’s nine. Latrell Brooks added five, Darrick Broadwater three, and Phillip Biser and Laban Spencer two points each. Keyser won the freshman game 29-22.

The Keyser varsity enters the Christmas break with an overall record of 1-4, 0-2 in the conference. “We are 1-4, if a few things had went our way, we could easily be 4-1,” Coach John Haines Jr. opines. Haines continues, “We are improving every game, but we have to learn from our mistakes and learn to finish the close games. Teaching life lessons and how to build off of adversity is what will make our program succeed. We will get better every game and look forward to seeing the Falcons a few more times this year.” Keyser next hosts Tucker County on the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 28.

Frankfort enters the Christmas break with an overall record of 6-0, 3-0 in the conference. “It feels great to be 6-0 and know that we have beaten some tough teams, some even on their floor,” Coach Scott Slider explains. Slider continues, “We know the record is good but we feel it’s early and we have a lot of things we will be improving on as the season progresses. Our team goal is to be in Charleston for the State Tournament in March. Games like Frankfort/Keyser have a big impact on our high school basketball season.” Frankfort will next host Hampshire on Thursday, Dec. 27.

What a thriller. It was a game with all the extras, and so many twists and turns that you’d have a hard time dreaming up a more exciting storyline. Frankfort and Keyser left it all on the court, in front of their fans and even Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The good news is that this represents the first chapter in what will likely be a three-part series between the Falcons and Golden Tornado this season.Next time around, Frankfort High School in Short Gap will be the scene of the action. If Santa and Mrs. Claus are rested up from Christmas by then, I suspect they may be making a return trip to Mineral County from the North Pole to get in on the action.