Martinsburg's Donte' Grantham scores as Huntington's Arick Nicks (4) defends.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Neither Jordan Robinson nor his Martinsburg team was doing much from 3-point range Wednesday night. Until the very end of the game, that is.Robinson knocked down a huge pair of 3s to break a late tie, lifting the No. 1-seeded Bulldogs to a 60-50 victory over Huntington in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA tournament at the Civic Center.The win sends Martinsburg (24-2) into Friday's 5:30 p.m. semifinal against either No. 4 Washington or No. 5 Parkersburg South, who play today.Robinson had missed his first three shots of the game and the Bulldogs were a mere 2 of 19 from long range as the score stood tied at 48-all with less than four minutes left.But Robinson remained undaunted.When the ball came to him on the left wing with 3:39 remaining, he aimed and fired. Swish. Following a Highlanders turnover, Martinsburg worked the ball around the perimeter and it wound up in Robinson's hands again in almost exactly the same spot with 2:39 to go. Another swish.What looked like trouble for the Bulldogs was washed away."When I caught it, I didn't feel they were respecting me out there,'' Robinson said of the Highlanders' defense. "That first half was one of the worst halves I've ever played, so I figured it couldn't get any worse than that.''The Bulldogs never tried another 3 the rest of the night and wound up 4 of 21, but it was enough. Huntington (18-7), the No. 8 seed, never got closer than six points afterward.For much of the night, it seemed like the Highlanders would become the first No. 8 seed to ever beat a No. 1 since the tournament adopted a coaches seeding process in 2005. When it ended, Huntington's 10-point deficit was two shy of the closest a No. 8 had ever come, when No. 1 Logan beat Hedgesville 65-57 in 2010.
"It was a great high school basketball game,'' said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. "I'm not sure what seeding means, or the records of the triple-A teams here. Huntington is a great basketball team with good athletes who can dribble, drive, kick and shoot.''Arick Nicks, a 6-foot-4 junior, played Martinsburg all-stater Donte' Grantham to a standstill, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds compared to Grantham's 16 points and 13 boards."We never back down from other teams,'' Nicks said. "Because you're No. 1 doesn't mean anything. Anyone can be beat. I like playing on this-type stage. It's just me.''Huntington led at halftime 30-25, outshooting the Bulldogs 44 percent to 39 and outrebounding them 18-12. The latter was a point of emphasis at halftime for Rogers."I didn't to tell them this before the game,'' Rogers said, "but I'm not sure I've ever brought a team down here - and this has been 25, 26 times now - where we played well the first night.
"We did some things defensively we haven't done all year and those 3-pointers, if they drop you look like a million dollars and if they don't drop you're struggling. But we weathered the storm, came back and did a great job in the second half on the boards and Jordan Robinson hit two big 3s when we needed them.''Martinsburg finished with a 33-26 edge in rebounds. Chancelor Wooding added 15 points for the Highlanders, who were outscored 25-11 on second-chance points."I feel like we played a good game tonight,'' said Huntington coach Ron Hess. "I think we came in with a good game plan and played fantastic in the first half. We took them out of what they wanted to do."I think a lot of people thought we'd come out here and take a big loss, but we gave them all they wanted tonight. I was glad to get them up here [because] all these kids are coming back and we feel real good about the future.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.