CUMBERLAND - It's been years since the Bob Kirk Arena on the campus of Allegany College has been filled to the rafters with enthusiastic, screaming basketball fans.
By Chapin Jewell
CUMBERLAND - It’s been years since the Bob Kirk Arena on the campus of Allegany College has been filled to the rafters with enthusiastic, screaming basketball fans.
In fact, Garrett Eagan, WCBC’s radio voice of the Trojans, tweeted these words after the game, “Not since I started doing games in 2012 have I seen a crowd like that at Bob Kirk Arena.”
Taking it a step further, in the storied tradition of Allegany College basketball, there may never have been a time where the gym was packed with screaming fans and at least half if not the majority of those fans were there supporting the visiting team.
That was the case Tuesday night as seemingly half of Mineral County showed up in Cumberland to watch their Potomac State Catamounts defeat the home standing Trojans 98-95 in thrilling and dramatic fashion.
With the win in front of a highly supportive fan base, Potomac State advanced their record to an undefeated 23-0 on the season and will no doubt retain their NJCAA Division Two No. 1 national ranking.
“It was a great turnout of local fans and Potomac State College students. To have people in the student section cheering for you is a great feeling. I want to say thanks to those that made the trek to Allegany and supported our team,” Potomac State head coach and athletic director Shawn White said of the Catamounts’ support.
Indeed, it certainly looked like half of Keyser made the trip to lend their support. Also in attendance were many members and coaches from Frankfort’s basketball team. The fact that the teacher’s strike put a hiatus on all high school activities to include practice and games provided the perfect opportunity for Potomac State fans from Keyser and Frankfort to make the trip to support the Catamounts, a chance they’re not often afforded due to games of their own.
Allegany College fans turned out as well and were curious to see what all the fuss was about with Potomac State entering the game with JUCO Division Two’s No. 1 ranking and an undefeated record. For their part, no doubt Catamount fans were curious about how their talent would stack up with JUCO Division One Allegany. By the time the clock struck zero, those questions were answered.
Potomac State and Allegany College delivered and delivered big in the entertainment department, as the two were neck and neck from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Allegany College entered halftime with a slim 51-48 lead. The pace of the game was incredibly fast and the two traded baskets back and forth for the full 40 minutes. It certainly had that “whoever hits the final bucket is going to win” feel to it.
In the final minute, Potomac State held a slim 96-91 lead. The Trojans went on the offensive and with back-to-back Saivon Word buckets brought the game to within one point (96-95). After a Catamount turnover, Allegany’s dynamic Demarcus Demonia drove to the bucket for the go ahead basket, but with 33 ticks left on the clock, Demonia would be called for an offensive charge.
In the double bonus by that point, Leondre Rogers hit two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to put Potomac State up 98-95. A last ditch effort for Allegany to shoot a three pointer for the tie missed the mark and Potomac State earned an exciting 98-95 victory.
Calvin Wilder led the Catamounts with his game high 33-point performance. Wilder had plenty of help, however, as Leondre Rogers added 27 points. Also scoring in double figures for Potomac State were Cortney Walton with 14 points and Ramone Williams with 10.
In the loss, Allegany College was led by Demarcus Demonia’s team high 29 points. Also scoring in double figures for the Trojans were Antoine Lewis with 18 points, followed by Saivon Word with 16 and Davon Floyd with 13.
“The key to our victory at Allegany was the fact we played as a team. Calvin Wilder and Leondre Rogers scored big bucket after big bucket in the second half. Add to that the fact that Ramone Williams, Cortney Walton, James Moore and Jalen Williams played outstanding defense,” Catamount coach Shawn White said in evaluating his team’s performance.
One impressive aspect of Potomac State’s success, both in the game and on the season, is that they’re doing all this with a roster largely composed of in-state talent. Potomac State’s roster contains nine players from the state of West Virginia. In fact, the Catamounts started four native West Virginians against Allegany. There’s a local flavor to the roster too as three of the nine Mountain State ballers hail from Mineral County.
According to White, “I am very proud that we have nine West Virginia players on our roster. I am truly blessed to have three local players in Camden White and Cade Staggers from Keyser and Seth Leedom from Frankfort. They are quality student athletes that have played their role in our success this year.”
For the local players, they’re well aware of what a victory over a quality team and program like Allegany means to the Potomac State program. They know of the history of the Trojan basketball program and of the scads of Allegany College players who went on to play Division One college basketball, not to mention a few with NBA careers. The walls of the lobby outside Bob Kirk Arena are lined with portraits and Division One and NBA jerseys representing these successes.
According to White, “We fully prepared our players for the jerseys they were going to see hanging and the rich history of the Allegany program. We knew that if we played for a full forty minutes that we could walk out with a victory. I am pleased with how our team handled the stress of the situation.”
The game was played with intensity for a full 40 minutes, both by the players and their supporters in the stands. It was a night that brought back memories of days gone by in a rivalry that’s displayed incredible energy and emotions in the past.
As Shawn White points out, “In the late ’70s and all of the ’80s, the Allegany and Potomac State rivalry was huge. Times have changed, however, for our current players it wasn’t as much about a rivalry as it was a game we wanted to play to help us prepare for the Region Tournament.”
It may not have been rivalry they had on their mind before playing the game Tuesday night, but after the energy, excitement and emotion on display, no doubt both programs and their respective fan bases will be circling the Potomac State/Allegany game on the calendar in the years to come.
White was quick to give Allegany and coach Tommie Reams credit for being a quality program. “They are Division One JUCO and we are Division Two JUCO, so there are no playoff games between our two teams. Coach Reams does a nice job down there and we wish them well in their Region Tournament.”
With their victory over Division One Allegany in front of a huge local crowd, the Catamounts bring even more recognition and praise beyond that already spurred by their undefeated record and number one national ranking.
“I am very happy for the exposure that our basketball success has brought to our school. Potomac State is a great institution with over 100 years of pride up there on that hill in Keyser. I also want to say thanks to our assistant coaches Lindy Shank and Russ Clay for their continued hard work in helping our basketball players every day,” a proud coach White said in reflection.
There are games left to play and the Catamounts have their eyes set on goals bigger than just this win against Allegany. In a radio interview with Tony Caridi on the WVMetroNews Sportsline Wednesday Night, Coach White described the challenges that lay ahead as Potomac State advances into tournament play.
There will be bigger and better teams than those they’ve played thus far. But Potomac State has risen to every challenge put before them, as evidenced by their perfect record and the grit and determination shown in their huge victory over Allegany on the biggest of local stages. We don’t know what the future holds but we certainly like their chances.
There is, however, one thing we do know for certain. Potomac State rolled into Cumberland Tuesday night with all the pressure an undefeated record and number one national ranking brings with it. Add to that pressure a date with an historic program on their home court in front of a large and raucous crowd. For a lesser team, all that could have spelled a recipe for disaster.
Despite all that, they weathered the potential storm perfectly, rising to the challenge and proving themselves worthy of their perfect record and number one ranking. Along the way, they electrified their loyal fan base and most likely added some new local fans. Everything about that game Tuesday night felt like old times. You can’t beat an intense local rivalry, and it sure felt like things picked up right where they left off between the Catamounts and the Trojans. A night to remember indeed.