Lady Tornado falls to North Marion to end season

Chapin Jewell
Special to the News Tribune
Keyser's Maddy Broadwater and Maddie Harvey surround their North Marion opponent.

KEYSER - After losing at Hampshire in the sectional finals on Friday night, the Keyser Lady Tornado drew undefeated North Marion in the regional co-final game on Tuesday.  On paper, that was a tough enough draw.  On the court, it would be even tougher as the Lady Huskies would turn in perhaps their season-best performance, firing on all cylinders from pillar to post in defeating Keyser 92-50.

North Marion’s full court press and subsequent forcing of Keyser turnovers all night, coupled with a lightning face transition game kept the nets on fire all night for the team that has now been seeded second, behind neighbor Fairmont Senior in the state tournament pairings.

“We started out a little sloppy, which, we knew it had a chance to get sloppy and we didn’t want to get sloppy early.  They feed off steal and run out, steal and run out, and that just gets them going and gets energy in them.  We didn’t take care of the ball early.  When we did break the pressure, we made shots tonight, which we hadn’t made shots all year,” Keyser coach Josh Blowe stated.

How on fire was North Marion offensively? Consider that all five starters scored in double figures with Olivia Toland leading the way with 20 points and Karlie Denham close behind with 18 points.  Emma Freels added 14 points, Katlyn Carson 11 points and Adryan Stemple 10 points for the Huskies.  There was additional scoring off the bench as well.

In the loss, Keyser senior Kaili Crowl matched Olivia Toland’s game-high performance with 20 points of her own, playing in her final game after a tremendous four-year career at Keyser.  Averi Everline and Alexa Shoemaker were next for Keyser with eight points each, While Maddy Broadwater tallied six points, Aly Smith four points, and Maddie Harvey and Rebekah Biser two points each.

“It was awesome to see Kaili go out like that in her last game, it was amazing.  I don’t get emotional too much, but I was emotional tonight talking to her by the locker room.  Her dedication, effort, and hard work has been tremendous the last four years,” Blowe stated.  “She’ll never be forgotten in the Keyser High School program.

Keyser scored the first bucket of the game, but North Marion immediately began forcing turnover after turnover with their press, then connected on seemingly every bucket thereafter to rack up a big lead early.  The Lady Huskies led 23-10 after the opening stanza.  The second period was much the same, with the host team outscoring Keyser 26-18 to take a 49-28 lead into intermission.

Nearly on pace to break the century mark, North Marion didn’t relent with a 25 to eight advantage in the third period to take a 74-36 lead heading into the fourth.  An 18-14 advantage I the final frame gave North Marion the 92-50 victory and a trip to Charleston.

For Keyser, the Lady Tornado end what has been a very solid season with a final record of 10-8.  Along the way, the wins have been good and several of the losses close.  Certainly, a trip to the state tournament is the ultimate goal, but Keyser can look back with pride on their accomplishments this season, and the Black and Gold can look to the future with optimism.

“We have a lot coming back.  If we can improve on some of our weaknesses we have a chance to be special,” Blowe stated.  “If we get complacent, we don’t put the time and work in, it’s going to be an average, or a little above average team.  But, I feel like if we put the time and effort in, I think we can get to a level we want to be in.”

As the season concludes, Blowe was asked to describe how COVID has affected the season as a whole.

“It didn’t affect practice and games so much, except wearing the mask.  But, some of the things we like to do, like team-bonding activities, we didn’t get to do any of those.  Like, we always go to a Mountaineer game, we always do a Bowling Party, we always do a Christmas party.  We didn’t do any of those team functions we normally do,” Blowe explained.

“Other than that, it was pretty good, except when it was game-practice-game-practice, that made it tough, because you’re not getting much time to prepare.  That was the hardest part, dealing with the compacted schedule,” Blowe stated.

“Overall, I’m pleased with a lot of aspects of the year.  Defensively, tonight didn’t tell you, but coming into tonight, this is probably the number two defense we’ve had, so hopefully we can build on that and start making more shots on offense,” Blowe stated.  “We rebounded well, we did a lot of great things.  Turnover numbers are way down this year compared to last year.  We’ve got a lot to build off of, and hopefully in the off season we can do that.”