First, let's be perfectly clear. There has been no official word from the WVSSAC regarding the outright cancellation of the boys' basketball playoffs, yet.
By Chapin Jewell
First, let’s be perfectly clear. There has been no official word from the WVSSAC regarding the outright cancellation of the boys’ basketball playoffs, yet.
That being said, as the days have progressed, the likelihood of basketball play resuming is slimmer than your chances of getting a Chimichanga from Keyser’s Stray Cat Café, or an Ice Cream Cake from the Ridgeley Dairy Queen.
If by some chance this supposition is wrong, of course we’d never be so happy to be wrong about something in our lives.
So where were we? Oh yes, that’s right, we were fresh off what many have honestly claimed to be the best game, most dramatic at least, they’d ever seen in their lives, Keyser’s 71-70, double-overtime victory over Frankfort in Short Gap.
Certainly Keyser fans were beyond excited with the win, particularly about avenging two previous losses to 20-win Frankfort earlier in the season, both home and away. But there’s more, way more. There’s also the fact that the win over Frankfort in the sectional final meant the Golden Tornado would now be able to host North Marion in a regional-co-final, for the literal chance to advance to the state tournament in Charleston.
There was excitement in Short Gap as well. Sure nobody likes to lose but Frankfort fans accepted the loss against Keyser in the sense that they appreciated the quality and dramatics of the game. More importantly, however, is the fact that the loss to Keyser did not eliminate the Falcons from post-season play. There would be a chance at redemption and a spot in the state tournament in Charleston if the Falcons could topple Fairmont Senior in Fairmont in the other regional co-final.
The two teams had treated us to what many consider to be the best game they had ever seen and were both still alive with a chance to advance to Charleston. Both needed just one more win.That’s where we were on the afternoon of Thursday, March 12. The folks at KHS were busy readying things to host North Marion that night and at the other end of the county, Frankfort was looking to board the bus for the trip to Fairmont.
Then the call came, or maybe it was an Internet post, regardless, the news came down everyone was hoping could wait at least one more day so Keyser and Frankfort could at least get their games in. That news of course was that the girls’ basketball tournament, already in session, would be suspended, and that the same rule applied to the boy’s regional games scheduled for that night, the last batch of games before teams advanced to the boys’ state tournament the following week.
The News-Tribune found out first with a text from Keyser coach Johnny Haines at 2:23 p.m. that read “Governor and WVSSAC has suspended all games.” The news was re-iterated with text confirmation from Frankfort athletic director Jay Hesse five minutes later at 2:28, “Cancelled…or postponed. We don’t know yet.”
Here we are 30 days later and we still don’t officially know the answer to that question. Considering there’s not even a chance of school resuming for several weeks, if at all, the writing is on the wall.
The realization has set in at both ends of Mineral County that we are basically stuck now not knowing what might have been. Would at least one team have won their contest that night and advanced to the boys’ state tournament that may or may not have happened. Would both teams have won that night, sending two Mineral County representatives to Charleston, which, by the way, would have been beyond amazing? Or would both teams have lost?
You know, at this point, having both teams lose, while being upsetting, would have at least brought closure to the season, two very, very fine seasons. That’s the worst part with where we currently stand, there is no closure for these kids and coaches. It’s tough for the juniors, and sophomores and freshman, but they will have more chances. It’s doubly, triply, or infinitely worse for the seniors because this was it, the culmination of their high school careers, fine careers at that.
It’s tough too because both Keyser and Frankfort were senior-laden teams, both in terms of leadership and talent. So much time, so much energy, so much effort and excitement, and then pfff, nothing. As fans, as sportswriters, we are surely disappointed. It hits the kids and coaches the most, however.
There have been post-season accolades rolling in such as the All-PVC and All-State teams. Keyser was named the Potomac Valley Conference team champion with their win over Frankfort in the sectional final, and the Golden Tornado had seniors Ryan Shoemaker, PJ Kennedy and Shawn See named to the All-PVC team, along with Coach Johnny Haines being named PVC coach of the year. Shoemaker and See were also named honorable mention All-State and as nominees for the J. Edward Kelley Award at KHS.
Frankfort had seniors Jansen Knotts, JJ Blank and David Blanco named to the All-PVC team, with Jansen Knotts being named the Potomac Valley Conference’s player of the year. In addition, Knotts was named second-team All-State with Blanco garnering honorable mention All-State honors.
While we may never know what might have been, what we do know and can celebrate is what was, and that’s fantastic seasons for both senior-laden teams.
Keyser has likely finished the season with a record of 18-7, winning 72 percent of their games. The Golden Tornado both started and ended their season with a bang, knocking off the Bishop Walsh Burgundy squad to start things off and defeating Frankfort in the section final to cap things off.
At the end of their first 11 games, Keyser stood with a mediocre record of 6-5, but things were about to improve. Keyser would conclude the season incredibly strong by going 12-2 over their final 14 games, enjoying win streaks of four, three and five games.
Frankfort has likely finished the season with a record of 20-4, winning 83 percent of their games. Ironically for Frankfort, the highly successful season was bookended by disappointing losses, first to open the season against Hampshire, and then in the final game against Keyser. In between, however, Frankfort won 20 of their 22 games played.
The Falcons can tout marquee wins over Southern, North Marion and Bishop Walsh Burgundy not to mention two wins over Keyser. In a time spanning January 25 to Match 4, Frankfort won 12 straight games.
So there is much to celebrate while at the same time we are left to wonder what might have been. Since it is likely we will never know officially, it’s really up to us to speculate how things may have played out.
The best scenario envisioned is one in which Keyser defeated North Marion at home and Frankfort defeated Fairmont Senior on the road. As such, both teams would have advanced to the state tournament in Charleston, and of course we can then pretend that the boys’ state tournament actually happened.
Imagine a scenario where the two teams then met again in Charleston in tournament play and put on a similar performance to the epic 71-70 game, this time, however, in front of the watching eyes of the entire Mountain State. Sure, of course the ideal scenario would be for the winner to advance and ultimately win the state championship but at that point, we’re probably being too greedy.
The 2019-2020 basketball season for Keyser and Frankfort will long be remembered for being highly successful for both teams. While we’re certainly left wondering what might have been, we are now left with two choices. Mourn not knowing what might have been, or celebrate what actually was.
It’s time to celebrate.