In a crowded Keyser High School gymnasium Saturday, Golden Tornado fans and a lpaarge contingent from Grafton assembled for the sectional championship game.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
In a crowded Keyser High School gymnasium Saturday, Golden Tornado fans and a lpaarge contingent from Grafton assembled for the sectional championship game.  
There was a tremendous amount of energy in the gym on both sides, and the game would remain close to the very end. When the final buzzer sounded, it would be the visiting Bearcats of Grafton that earned the 58-50 victory.
Keyser advanced to the sectional championship with a convincing 70-50 win over Philip Barbour. Grafton advanced with a surprising 58-46 upset over top-seeded Frankfort. Both will now advance to regional finals, but the path to Charleston comes much easier for the victor.
Grafton, the winner, earned the right to host North Marion for a trip to the state tournament on the line. Keyser’s road to the state tournament now passes through top-seed Fairmont Senior in Fairmont.
“That was a great high school basketball atmosphere, the students were rocking! I applaud them and the community for the support.  I will say, we do have a game left, as the biggest underdog in the state! Who would have thought in January that Keyser would be playing in a regional championship with a shot at going to Charleston,” Golden Tornado coach John Haines Jr. exclaimed.
The game simply could not have been any closer, until Grafton took control in the final three minutes, that is. The first period ended with the Tornado and Bearcats knotted up at 14 points apiece. Eight minutes later, when the buzzer signaling halftime rang out, host Keyser had edged Grafton 25-23 to take a two-point lead heading into the locker rooms.
In that first half, Shawn See led the Golden Tornado with an outstanding ten-point performance. See was joined by PJ Kennedy with six points, Brady Clay with four, and Ryan Shoemaker and Reggie Redman with three and two points, respectively.  
Grafton was led through the first two periods by Jack Faulkner with nine points, Garrett Moats with five, Caleb Bish with four, Blake Moore with three and Dylan Massie with two.
In the third period, the teams would do battle back forth until ultimately the period ended with the teams tied at 40 points apiece.  Keyser jumped out to a 44-40 lead to open the fourth period, but Grafton would tie things up at 48 points apiece with three minutes to play. The Bearcats would take the lead (50-48) with a Dylan Massie shot with 2:45 remaining and then dominate down the stretch, outscoring Keyser 8-2 the rest of the way to earn the 58-50 victory.   
In the losing effort, Keyser was led by Shawn See’s double-double, 19 points, 16 rebounds, nine blocks performance. See shot 90 percent from the field. Reggie Redman added eight points and 10 rebounds, PJ Kennedy also added eight points. Ryan Shoemaker contributed seven points, Brady Clay and Latrell Brooks four points each.
Grafton was led in double figures by Blake Moore’s 16 points followed by Jack Faulkner with 15. Logan Beltner added eight points, Dylan Massie seven, Garrett Moats five, Caleb Bish four, and Garrett Wellman three.
Keyser’s Coach Haines was impressed with the big man Shawn See’s performance, “Shawn has come a long way, he is improving every practice and game. He is learning how to let the game come to him and just go out and play. His presence on the court is felt everywhere, he is a great weapon for the Golden Tornado.”
Despite See’s impressive efforts, Keyser’s troubles from the foul line and inability to hit any three-point shots made a big difference in the game.
According to Haines, “I think they were just playing more relaxed than us, they had nothing to lose.  We let their pressure get to us in all aspects of the game.  Basically, we got outcoached and outplayed; props to Grafton.”
While Grafton hosts North Marion with a chance to advance to Charleston, the Golden Tornado can advance to the state tournament with a win on the road against Fairmont Senior.  “When you think Fairmont Senior, you think well coached, athletic, college talented kids, state champions,” Haines stated.  Fairmont Senior is currently 23-1 and the 2018 state runner-up, after being dethroned by Chapmanville a year ago. Prior to that, the Polar Bears were the defending two-time state champions.
“I will tell you we won’t back down and the Golden Tornado will fight until the end.  Anything can happen on any given day; we feel blessed that we will be playing this Wednesday.  I know one group that has busted their tails off, that same group that battled adversity, that same group that never gives up, that same group that will represent the Black and Gold far after basketball, that is the team we have this year,” Haines proudly stated.
Haines closed with, “They are great young men on and off the court, we all should be very proud of them. I know myself and our coaching staff are.”
It was obvious by the crowd, both in terms of their large numbers and the spirt with which they cheered, that the Keyser community is indeed proud of these young men, on and off the court.  They have enjoyed tremendous success from the mid-point of the season forward, but things certainly got off to a rocky start. To their credit, they’ve persevered, and now find themselves one tough win away from a trip to Charleston for the state tournament. What more could you ask for?