Both Frankfort and Keyser's basketball programs ended the season a year ago in large part due to the Grafton Bearcats. For Frankfort, the Falcons earned the right to be the top seed in the sectional playoffs, thus drawing a first-round bye. In the second round, the Falcons were shocked by Grafton 58-46 to end their season. For Keyser, Grafton would defeat the Golden Tornado in the sectional championship game 58-50, forcing the Black and Gold into a trip to top-ranked Fairmont Senior in the regional co-finals where the Polar Bears ended their season.
By Chapin Jewell
Both Frankfort and Keyser’s basketball programs ended the season a year ago in large part due to the Grafton Bearcats. For Frankfort, the Falcons earned the right to be the top seed in the sectional playoffs, thus drawing a first-round bye. In the second round, the Falcons were shocked by Grafton 58-46 to end their season. For Keyser, Grafton would defeat the Golden Tornado in the sectional championship game 58-50, forcing the Black and Gold into a trip to top-ranked Fairmont Senior in the regional co-finals where the Polar Bears ended their season.
Keyser finished the season last year with a record of 12-13, with the majority of those losses coming early in the season, and ultimately reached the regional co-final. Frankfort finished the season last year with an overall record of 16-5 after winning their first 10 games.
For both teams, therefore, there was solid success to build on from the previous and an expectation that both teams could be even better in the 2019-2020 campaign. While the season’s end hasn’t officially been cancelled with both teams still slated to play in a regional co-final matchup, it certainly looks as if they season will conclude without those games and the state tournament to follow being played.
Therefore, at the time of this writing, it can be reported that Keyser has appeared to have completed their season with a much improved record of 18-7, and were slated to host North Marion in a regional co-final. It can also be reported that Frankfort appears to have completed their season with an equally improved record of 20-4, and were slated to travel to Fairmont Senior in the other regional co-final.
The Keyser Golden Tornado, under the leadership of coach John Haines Jr., would follow a somewhat similar pattern to last season, in the sense that they struggled somewhat early but finished the second half of the season red hot, playing their best basketball of the season come playoff time.
Keyser started the season with a bang by defeating Bishop Walsh’s Burgundy squad in dramatic fashion (47-45). Next came a convincing 69-50 victory over East Fairmont for a quick 2-0 start. Next came two straight losses, one to regional opponent North Marion (70-51), the other to sectional opponent Grafton (53-39). In the blink of an eye, 2-0 became 2-2.
Over the next seven games, Keyser enjoyed success and letdowns. There would be victories over Tucker County, Hampshire, Petersburg and Berkeley Springs, but also losses to Southern, Frankfort and Hampshire. At the conclusion of their first 11 games, Keyser found themselves just above .500 with a 6-5 record.
Then the switch flipped. As Haines predicted early on, Keyser would continue to improve game by game. Over the next 14 games, the Golden Tornado would enjoy win streaks of four games (Fort Hill, Allegany, Petersburg, Philip Barbour), three games (Berkeley Springs, Sissonville, Tucker County) and five games (Allegany, Northern, Petersburg, Grafton, Frankfort).
Keyser won 12 of their final 14 games in total, losing only to Frankfort and Mountain Ridge in that stretch. The Golden Tornado finished what’s been played thus far with five straight victories, punctuated with sectional playoff wins against Grafton (80-72) and Frankfort (71-70). The Grafton win avenged an earlier loss to the Bearcats, with the Frankfort win avenging two previous losses to the Falcons, and most importantly setting Keyser up to control their own destiny with the regional co-final at home.
Keyser’s Coach Haines summed up the season with the following, “First of all, it was a great year, one that I will never forget! These seniors are what made the season so special, we had a ton of them but they bought in and came together. We instilled what they were capable of doing early in the year. When that finally clicked we started to play Keyser basketball.”
According to Haines, “We had a lot of accomplishments along the way, some that we may not see for a long time, but those individuals were all about the team and the wins. Our coaches and players were a tight knit family that always had each other’s back on and off the court. Through the ups and downs no one ever gave up and more importantly stayed positive. Which in return made this season a special one.”
“Redemption was the term heading into the playoffs, I think we did a great job following that path. We had one more redemption game on our mind that didn’t get played, so the players can have that vision in their minds how that would of ended,” Haines ended.
The Frankfort Falcons, under the leadership of Coach Scott Slider, enjoyed tremendous success throughout the regular season, and at one point would win 12-straight games before falling to Keyser in the sectional final.
Frankfort opened the season with a disappointing one-point, 55-54 loss at Hampshire. Rather than let the loss get them down, Frankfort responded by earning three-straight wins against Berkeley Springs (65-30), Fort Hill (70-54) and Southern (50-48). The win over Southern was huge in that the Rams would go onto be slated to play in Maryland’s suspended final four.
A disappointing two-point (56-54) loss to Elkins would be followed by five-straight wins over Lincoln (54-46), Berkeley Springs (66-37), Grafton (49-47), Petersburg (60-30) and Keyser (56-39). Then came a 46-37 loss to Fairmont Senior at Garrett College before the Falcons would go on to win the next 12 games straight.
Those 12 straight wins would come against Philip Barbour, Mountain Ridge, Petersburg, Keyser, Allegany, Moorefield, Bishop Walsh Burgundy, North Marion, Hampshire, Northern, Moorefield and Berkeley Springs. In the last game played, the sectional final against Keyser, Frankfort fell to the Golden Tornado 71-70 in double overtime, but were still slated to play in the regional co-final at Fairmont Senior.
Frankfort’s Coach Slider summed up the season with the following, “Any time you can finish the year with 20 wins you know you’ve had a successful season. It’s the most successful we’ve been since I’ve been there. We lost a total of four games by 13 points and scored several big wins along the way. We have the program right where it belongs and that’s playing in the regional co-final for a chance to advance to the state tournament.”
According to Slider, “The kids were absolutely great all season. I would say in terms of their work ethic and a positive attitude, they’ve been as good if not better than any group I’ve had. Over the last couple years, they’ve gotten the program to the point it should be and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
“I’m disappointed for them, especially for the seniors, that they didn’t get the chance to play in the regional co-final game at Fairmont Senior for a shot at a state tournament bid. The season seems to have ended without any real sense of closure which is frustrating. But again, they’ve got a lot to be proud of and represented Frankfort High School and themselves in the best way possible,” Slider ended.
While it is theoretically possible that both Keyser and Frankfort could play in their respective regional co-finals for a chance at a trip to the state tournament, it is likely that those games and the state tournament are likely not to happen. While that’s unfortunate, it doesn’t put a damper on the tremendous season enjoyed by both teams.
Collectively, Keyser and Frankfort finished the season thus far with a combined record of 38-9, winning 81% of their games played. Along the way, they provided themselves and their fan bases with great memories from many remarkable games played, perhaps none more entertaining than the 71-70 game against each other that ended the season.