Apr. 25—ROMNEY, W.Va. — In years past, Saturday’s game may have been one that the Hampshire Trojans would let get away from them. But not this year.
The Trojans outshot and outmuscled Trinity Christian in a physical contest that looked like a track and field meet at times, as Hampshire won the Class AAA, Region I, Section 2 championship, 64-53, for its first section title since 2015.
“I commend the referees for the fact that … I’ve been a referee and that’s a tough game, physical, up-tempo,” said Hampshire head coach Daniel Alkire. “They did a hell of a job going both ways, being fair and consistent.”
Trinity finished with 26 fouls and shot 15 for 21 from the foul line, while the Trojans had 22 fouls and were 16 of 30 from the stripe.
“But that all comes back to us having six seniors … and our experience,” Alkire said. “We’ve been preaching to our kids for two years that it’s a game of runs. Ten points can come in 30 or 40 seconds, and it’s going to happen back and forth.
“You don’t weather a storm in the middle of it, you weather the storm because you’re already prepared for it, and we’ve been prepared for two years. That’s why we were able to handle it and not get overwhelmed and keep our composure.”
The senior-led Trojans had five players — all seniors — finish with double digits in the point department, with Mikhi Anderson leading the way with 15. Drew Keckley and Carter Smith had 12 points each, the latter of which had all of his points in the second half. Christian Hicks tacked on 11 and Trevor Sardo had 10.
It was a very next-man-up performance by the Hampshire seniors.
When the team needed baskets in the first quarter, Anderson and Keckley knocked them down.
When the offense needed a lifejacket, Sardo scored five of the team’s six points in the second quarter.
When junior Alex Hott got into foul trouble, senior Damon Steinmetz came off the bench and provided a spark on both ends of the floor.
When the game turned into a sprint, Smith was there to draw fouls and knock down clutch baskets.
When the team needed to stop for a chance to extend their fourth-quarter lead, Hicks was there with a pair of blocks that nearly blew the top off the gym.
“The roles that they have are complementary of each other,” Alkire said of his seniors. “Someone steps up when the other ones aren’t. We had five seniors with double figures. I can’t say enough about how much these kids love each other. It’s awesome to see and I’m just so grateful for them.”
Trinity Christian couldn’t be a more different team than Hampshire, with just one senior on the roster — the Warriors’ starting lineup consisted of one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen.
They were led by Gavin Jackson’s game-high 20 points, with James Garbart adding 16, Jaylon Hill nine and James Bourne seven.
The Trojans had a stranglehold on the game early, forcing a turnover on the first possession and capitalizing with a 3-pointer from Anderson.
They got the ball right back on a double-dribble call, and Anderson again made the Warriors pay with a running jumper off the glass.
Hicks gave Hampshire a 7-0 lead with 4:52 left before Hill hit a layup 20 seconds later to stop the run.
The Trojans went on another run coming out of a timeout, with Keckley hitting a 3-pointer before Hott went down the right side and threw an overhead pass across the court to Keckley in the left corner for another 3-pointer and a 13-2 lead.
Hampshire led 18-5 at the end of the first when Anderson knocked down a three-ball from the right elbow with 12 seconds left.
Sardo nailed a 3-pointer after receiving a handoff at the top of the arc at 7:15 in the second to extend the Trojans’ advantage to 21-5, but Garbart answered with a 3-pointer a minute later.
After a Trinity foul, Sardo grabbed a quick pass off an inbound from under the basket and laid it in for a 23-8 advantage.
The lead, however, quickly started to evaporate as Trinity went on an 11-0 run, with Garbart scoring the last seven points on the run.
Anderson stopped the bleeding with a free throw with 30 seconds remaining, giving the Trojans a 24-19 lead at halftime.
Trinity got within two, 24-22, early in the third before Jackson started to heat up from three-point land, hitting an NBA range three for a 25-24 lead — Trinity’s first lead — and sending Hampshire into a timeout at 6:22.
After a stop, Jackson hit another 3-pointer with a hand in his face to extend the lead to four.
Keckley interrupted with a floater through contact at 5:33, but Bourne knocked down a jumper off the glass and Jackson hit his third 3-pointer of the frame for a 33-26 lead with 4:19 to go in the third.
That was as big as the lead got, however, as Keckley fired a pass in to Sardo just above the foul line to start a 6-0 run, with a foul shot from Sardo falling and, after Hicks grabbed the offensive rebound on Sardo’s second free throw that missed, a traditional three-point play from Anderson to get Hampshire within one, 33-32, with 3:01 left in the third.
After a pair of Garbart foul shots, Smith hit his first clutch basket of the contest, driving the lane and drawing a blocking call, knocking down the shot and the free three at the 2:08 mark.
With Trinity in foul trouble, you could sense trouble brewing, as Smith’s old-fashioned three-point play tied the game at 35-all and fouled out the first of three Trinity players.
The play started a 7-0 run, with Keckley adding a pair of free throws 19 seconds later and Smith doubling the Trojans’ lead to 39-35 with a layin off an inbounds pass.
Smith knocked down the back end of a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining to give Hampshire a 42-39 lead entering the fourth and, more importantly, meaning the Trojans would be in double bonus the rest of the way.
As Trinity tried to chip away, the Trojans kept knocking down shots, with Zach Hill hitting baskets in traffic on two occasions to push Hampshire’s lead back out to three.
The Warriors got to within one again, 48-47, with 3:34 left and, after two Hampshire turnovers, had a chance to retake the lead before Hicks blocked a shot in the lane to give the ball back to the Trojans.
After a Trinity player was whistled for a foul following the blocked shot, Smith knocked down a pair from the charity stripe to jumpstart a 5-0 run for a 52-47 lead.
With just over a minute-and-a-half to play, the Warriors had a chance to get back to within one possession, trailing 55-49, when Jackson got the ball a step behind the 3-point line. He appeared to have a good look at the basket — that was until Hicks appeared out of nowhere to swat the shot a couple of rows up the bleachers and send the Hampshire gymnasium into elation.
The Trojans got another stop on defense before Keckley threw a half-court length pass to a wide-open Smith in the left corner, who calmly found nothing but net for the dagger with 1:17 remaining.
“It feels great, especially being our first sectional championship in a couple of years,” said Alkire, “and for this team and where we came from in the last three years to right now. Honestly, it feels so good just because I can see it in the face of these seniors.
“But we’ve been in these games all year. We beat East Fairmont on a layup with 24 seconds to go. We lost to Hedgesville with five seconds to go. We’ve been in these games multiple times this year, which prepared us for this, but the last two years, being in these games and being pulled away from, or having that lead and then losing it. But it honestly just feels great to see these seniors hold that trophy up.”
The Trojans will host North Marion on Tuesday, with the winner punching a ticket to the state tournament.
Kyle Bennett is a sports reporter for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @KyleBennettCTN.