KEYSER - It's well documented that Keyser got off to a shoddy start to the season with so many close defeats. Near the midpoint of the season, the Golden Tornado turned things around and instead of losing close games, started dominating much of their competition.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - It’s well documented that Keyser got off to a shoddy start to the season with so many close defeats. Near the midpoint of the season, the Golden Tornado turned things around and instead of losing close games, started dominating much of their competition.
That regular season trend spilled into post-season play as Keyser comfortably defeated Philip Barbour 70-50 Wednesday night to advance to Saturday’s sectional championship game.
“It really feels great, I’m so happy for our program, they deserve it more than anyone. They overcame the rough start. It's how you overcome those rough spots along the way that make you stronger.  That is exactly what we are, stronger, in every aspect of what the definition of what a team is,” Keyser coach John Haines Jr. stated.
Keyser jumped out to a quick 15-9 lead at the end of the first period. By the end of the first half, that lead grew to 21 points (40-19). The Golden Tornado went into the locker room at halftime full of confidence, having more than doubled up the Colts in the first half.
Philip Barbour used a 20-14 third period advantage to edge a little closer with the third period ending with Keyser still on top 54-39.  Keyser finished strong, outscoring the Colts in the fourth period 16-11 to finish with the 70-50 victory.
Ryan Shoemaker led the Golden Tornado in the win with a game-high 20-point performance.  “Ryan can get to the free throw line like no one I have ever seen, and he makes most of them. He was clutch down the stretch, but the balanced scoring from the whole team is what makes a program succeed, not one person,” Coach Haines said of Shoemaker’s performance.
That balanced scoring Haines refers to includes Jack White and Brady Clay, who also scored in double figures with 10 points apiece.  Add to that Reggie Redman and PJ Kennedy’s nine points each, Shawn See’s eight points, and Willie Ack and Latrell Brooks’ two points each.  
“We were playing a man down, not having our energizer Jacob Biser, but everyone stepped up and played a complete game. It was the best we have shot as a team in the first half all year. They took away a few things in the first half and it came down to keeping our composure and staying mentally tough,” explained Haines.
There were parts of the game that demanded composure, both on the court and in the stands. Despite the extra-curricular drama, Haines is proud of how his team responded, “Our team held their composure; we coach them that way and most importantly they are raised that way.  No high school game, or any place really, should have players and fans acting the way some did.  Our fans and our program should be applauded for the way for the way they conducted themselves on and off the court,” Haines opined.
In the loss, Philip Barbour was led by Jed Hawkins with 11 points, followed closely by Logan Ball and Levi MacAdam with 10 points each. The Colts close the season with a record of 11-12 and suffered a similar loss to Keyser (70-49) a few weeks ago.
With the victory, Keyser elevates their record to 12-11 on the season.  The Golden Tornado have now won seven of their last eight games against opponents from West Virginia, with that loss being by two points in overtime to Frankfort last Friday.
They now advance to Saturday’s sectional final to be played against Thursday’s winner of the Frankfort versus Grafton game.  Should Grafton win, the sectional championship will be played at Keyser. Should the Falcons get the win, Keyser will make a return trip to Short Gap.
Haines feels his team is prepared for either team. “Grafton is a lot like us; they are playing well in the second half of the season and are well coached. I’m sure it will be a battle in Short Gap, but I give the edge to Falcons being at home. I guess for the sake of Mineral County I would like to play Frankfort. We all should be proud of our student athletes and what all they accomplish. But wherever we are in Mineral County on Saturday night, the Black and Gold will be ready.”
With the closeness of the Keyser versus Frankfort matchups so far this season, fans are certainly in for a treat should the two meet again.  Frankfort defeated Keyser in Keyser by one point, 48-47, on Dec. 21.  Last Friday night, the Falcons edged Keyser by two points in overtime, 56-54.  
Grafton will certainly have a say in whether that matchup happens. As Haines points out, however, no matter who the opponent, Keyser will be ready.