Bulldogs take down Mohigans

By NATE MACZUZAK / Journal sports writer
Martinsburg forward Xavier Peters cuts the lane for an easy layup during a victory over Morgantown on Thursday at Martinsburg (Journal photo by Martin B. Cherry).
MARTINSBURG — The future, that’s something Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers is looking forward to.

He has a blossoming young team that he hopes will improve each time they take the floor.

“The season is still young,” he said. “We are kind of hoping this is the team of the future.”

And if Thursday is any indication, it is a good one.

The Bulldogs defeated Morgantown 68-58 in the opening round of The Martinsburg Hoops Tournament to advance to the finals where it will face Jefferson tonight at 7:30.

Martinsburg sophomore Isaac Thornton is making a habit of coming up big for the Bulldogs.

“He is a player,” Rogers said. “He understands the game; we think we have a gem.”

Gems do shine, and the youngster is shining brightly with a 21.5 ppg average for the Bulldogs.

He drained five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points. It is his second varsity game for Martinsburg and his second time leading all scorers.

Soothing Rogers even further is Thornton’s supporting cast on the offensive end.

He has some quality help with Isaiah Alford and Xavier Peters.

Alford came on late for Martinsburg, scoring 13 second-half points and finishing with 16.

Peters followed suit.

He had six points entering the fourth quarter and posted another nine in the period to end with 15 and help pace the Bulldogs’ transition game.

But Martinsburg’s offense isn’t what is presently concerning Rogers.

“Offensively, we are doing some good things,” he said. “My biggest concern is on the defensive end. I thought we gave up way too many drives to the basket. We’ve got to do a better job. We work on it every day in practice.

“We think we are quick enough to get up in people’s faces but sometimes it is our technique, sometimes it is our footwork. We’re not pushing off with the right foot, we’re not staying wide — and you have to do both those things.”

Morgantown’s Anthony Schifano kept the Bulldogs’ defense on its toes.

He scored 10 fourth-quarter points (14 in the second half) to keep Martinsburg honest. Schifano finished with a team-high 15 points.

Lundeen Ryan hit three consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter and tied the game at 32. He ended with 14 points.

But Martinsburg struck right back as Alford sank two 3s that straddled an Aaron Crim foul shot and the Bulldogs recaptured the lead at 41-34.

Morgantown made one final run in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 49-47, but Peters transformed two steals into five points and Martinsburg never looked back.

“We didn’t lead by much most of the way,” Rogers said. “Tonight, we didn’t play as smart as we wanted to play but our kids gave a great effort.”

The Bulldogs, who garnered a No. 7 preseason ranking, are looking to win their own tournament and Jefferson is looking to make a statement after being ignored by the AP preseason poll.

Rogers knows that it won’t be an easy contest.

“They are tough,” he said. “They got size, quickness and shooters. I think this is one of the best Jefferson teams for a long time.”

Rogers also knows that nothing can make a team better than playing good competition.

“You have to get more comfortable every game — that’s why you play,” he said.

— Nate Maczuzak can be reached at 263-8931 ext 131 or nmaczuzak@journal-news.net.

Martinsburg forward Xavier Peters cuts the lane for an easy layup during a victory over Morgantown on Thursday at Martinsburg (Journal photo by Martin B. Cherry).