To start the third quarter Friday night, George Washington’s Mason Pinkett drove into the foul lane and found himself trapped by Martinsburg defenders. With no clear passing lane, he turned and lofted a shot. It made a complete, lazy tour of the rim and fell.
It was a portent of things to come, because everything seemed to fall for GW the rest of that quarter.
Senior guards Pinkett and Alex Yoakum each delivered 23 points as the No. 2 seed Patriots reserved their spot in the first-ever Class AAAA boys basketball state tournament championship game with a 64-52 comeback victory against the No. 3 Bulldogs.
GW (16-1), winner of eight in a row, meets top-seeded Morgantown at 8 p.m. Saturday in the finals. It’s the Patriots’ first trip to the title game since they captured the 2018 crown.
“It’s an honor,’’ Pinkett said. “Not everyone gets to play in the state championship. I’ve been there twice in my career. It’s always fun to play in the game on Saturday night.’’
The Patriots, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, outscored Martinsburg 19-4 in the third period and had an overall run of 30-8 between the quarters. They made 8 of 10 shots and were 3 of 4 on 3-pointers in that period while the Bulldogs were 2 of 13 and 0 of 5, respectively.
“In the third quarter, the wheels came off a little bit,’’ said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. “They came out shooting the ball extremely well, even with defenders up in their face. Their shots were dropping and ours weren’t. When you turn the tide, those things can happen.
“A tough night. I thought we could slip in here and take one.’’
George Washington coach Rick Greene said there were no special adjustments made in the second half after the Bulldogs took a 34-28 lead into the dressing room.
Much of that advantage was built on live-ball turnovers, as Martinsburg had five steals that turned into layups at the other end. Anthony Smith scored nine of his 14 points in the first half for Martinsburg.
“It was a little bit like [the quarterfinal against Jefferson],’’ Greene said. “We just seemed to start slow and we get going and kind of kick it in. Martinsburg came out really, really up and had great energy, but eventually all of that kind of levels off. A game like this is a players’ game. Everybody tried to do what their role is, and that’s why we’re a pretty good team.
“We’ve been a little inconsistent this year, but when we play well at both ends of the floor … The kids just decided, ‘Let’s go. We need to get a better effort.’ When you’re playing defense, it’s communication and effort. Credit the kids. They’re the ones who came out and did it.’’
Yoakum had three 3-pointers and 11 points in the tell-tale third quarter and Pinkett added three baskets for 17 of GW’s 19 points in the period.
For Pinkett, it was a return to form after he’d scored a combined 24 points in his three previous postseason games. He also dished out five assists.
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,’’ Pinkett said, “and in attack mode. I was disappointed in how I played [Thursday] and I had to pick it up for my team and be a leader to get back to the championship game.’’
Ben Nicol tallied nine points for GW and Isaac McCallister came off the bench to provide GW with three crucial steals, three rebounds and five points.
Martinsburg (15-2), which saw a 15-game win streak halted, received 18 points and four assists from Doryn Smith. Anthony Smith added five assists and three steals to his scoring total.
Greene said his team can’t afford another slow start Saturday against the Mohigans (18-1) as West Virginia debuts its Class AAAA title game in the new four-class system that started just this season.
“If we don’t play four quarters, it will be really, really tough,’’ Greene said. “I was very impressed with them. We have to play 32 minutes like we played the second half the last two games. If we do that, we can be in a position to win. We can’t beat them playing two quarters a game.’’
It marks the sixth time in the last seven state tournaments that at least one Mountain State Athletic Conference team has reached the finals of the state’s largest classification.