KEYSER - A special bond has developed over the years between the Keyser girls' four senior basketball players. Lexi Turner, Kearstin Lucas, Makenna Staggers and Aubrey Smith have been teammates from the earliest of days. These girls are close on and off the court, and they've demonstrated to the younger players what it means to be a model teammates.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - A special bond has developed over the years between the Keyser girls’ four senior basketball players.  Lexi Turner, Kearstin Lucas, Makenna Staggers and Aubrey Smith have been teammates from the earliest of days. These girls are close on and off the court, and they’ve demonstrated to the younger players what it means to be a model teammates.
Thursday night, the fabulous foursome was recognized as part of Senior Night activities at Keyser High School. There were signs, balloons, hugs, tears, and oh yeah, a basketball game.  What better way for these four senior leaders to close out their last regular season game together with a victory over a defending state champion? The Lady Tornado did just that, as for the second time in the last four games, Keyser defeated the Southern Lady Rams 44-30 in front of an appreciative home crowd.
The last meeting between the two would take a colossal comeback effort from Keyser to force overtime and earn the win. This time, while not easy, the Lady Tornado gave each other some breathing room in earning the 14 point victory in regulation. Even better, Keyser’s fabulous foursome of seniors would combine for 38 of the black and gold’s 44 points.
On this night, the Lady Tornado was led by Makenna Staggers in her 17-point, four-steal performance. Staggers was the only player scoring in double figures. Next was Kearstin Lucas with eight points and seven rebounds, along with Aubrey Smith also with eight points and five rebounds. Lexi Turner scored five points but more importantly added 10 rebounds and seven assists.  Kaili Crowl and Aly Smith added three points each.
According to senior Makenna Staggers, “It was the best Senior Night I could ask for. I couldn’t have gotten the points without my teammates and their assists. That win meant the world to all of us.”
“This senior class is a very special group. They have worked extremely hard for four years and we can’t thank them enough for their hard work and dedication to the program. This group of seniors is a very tight group. Their chemistry and bonding off the court has certainly led to the success on the court,” Keyser coach Josh Blowe said of his seniors.
Things started off very slow for both teams. At the end of the first period, the Golden Tornado found themselves down narrowly to Southern by a score of 6-5. Things improved in the second period, and while baskets were still hard to come by for both teams, Keyser edged the Rams 10-6 in the period to take a narrow 15-12 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Keyser’s senior experience took over the game as the Lady Tornado outscored Southern 29-18 in the second half.  As a result of their dominating second half performance, Keyser earned the 44-30 victory.
According to Keyser’s Coach Blowe, “Tonight’s win was not pretty in any way shape or form except for the final score.  But, it was a very gritty win. Our tremendous team defense was the key to the game. This is the type of game you will see in the playoffs and I loved the way we responded, especially in the second half.  I hope this type of play is carried into the playoffs.”
Speaking of the playoffs, they begin this Monday, Feb. 18, with sectional play between Keyser and Berkeley Springs. The Indians, the sixth seed, will travel to third seed Keyser for a 7 p.m. tipoff.  Please note the change in time.
The winner of the Keyser/Berkeley Springs game will travel to second seeded Petersburg for a second round matchup on Wednesday, Feb. 20, also at 7 p.m.  
The victor in that game will play the winner of the number one seed Frankfort versus fifth seed Philip Barbour/fourth seed Grafton winner.  That sectional championship game will be played Friday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. on the home court of the highest seeded team.
Keyser’s Senior Night victory over Southern closed out regular season play for the Lady Tornado. They enter the playoffs with a record of 12-9 on the season. Against their sectional opponents, Keyser has secured two victories against Berkeley Springs, defeated Philip Barbour and Grafton, dropped two to Petersburg and one to Frankfort.
Keyser’s two victories over Berkeley Springs, their first round playoff opponent, came by 41 and 32 points.  
Keyser’s four seniors have already built a lifetime of memories on and off the court from their years of playing together. They can now add a spectacular Senior Night victory over Maryland class 1A defending state champion Southern to that bank of memories. But this special group of young ladies and their teammates aren’t finished building memories just yet.
“This group is really special and they will be dearly missed when our season concludes. We are going to do our best to keep them around for a few more weeks,” Keyser’s Coach Blowe concludes.
One thing is for certain, when the season eventually concludes, the friendship forged between this group of seniors won’t end.  Makenna Staggers sums it up the best, “We’ve played together for such a long time and we know each other so well.  They really are my best friends and I can’t imagine playing with anyone else.  We all want to see each other succeed and I know we’ll stay close for a long time.”