SAINT JAMES —The Martinsburg boys basketball team looked anything but tired following Friday’s rumble with Hedgesville.
West Virginia’s top-ranked Class AAA team hit the floor running and, except for a brief period in the third period, kept on running to crunch Saint James 85-56 Saturday night in front of a full house.
“We had some guys that didn’t play a lot of minutes Friday so they were ready to go,” Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers said.
And that was much to the chagrin of Saint James (6-8) as it faced the unbeaten Bulldogs (9-0).
Jacob Thompson hit a 3-pointer that gave the Saints a 5-4 lead just moments into the game, sending the Saint James fans into a frenzy.
However, the lead would be only momentary.
Jordan Robinson hit a bucket and Jalen Lewis followed with a 3-pointer to give Martinsburg an 8-5 lead that increased to 14-5 on goals by Elisha Freeman, Lewis and Denzel Cole.
And Donte Grantham had not even entered the scoring column — yet.
The 6-foot-7 senior scored seven points and, in a snap of the fingers, Martinsburg held a 26-14 lead after the first quarter.
“They were pumped, they brought the defense and they threw the first punch,” Saint James coach Paul Easton said.
Martinsburg pressured Saint James and displayed tremendous speed in transition, making it difficult for the Saints to defend.
Grantham buried back-to-back 3s early in the second quarter and the Bulldogs doubled up the Saints 32-16 on the way to a 44-30 lead at the break behind Grantham’s 19 points.
“We’re 10 deep and guys like David (Long) and Jarrell (Jones) did good jobs off the bench,” Rogers said.
But Saint James didn’t fold the tent in the second half, despite playing without 6-6 senior Nnamdi Enechionyia, who was out with an injured right knee.
The Saints closed to within 46-39 after a 3 by Thompson and a bucket by Sherman Harris at the 5:31 mark, but Martinsburg promptly answered and did it quickly, going on a 10-0 run in the next 90 seconds, led by Long’s two buckets.
Again, Saint James refused to quit with an 8-0 run on two baskets each by Thompson and Obi Enechionyia. At the break, Saint James was within 58-50.
But turnovers continued to plague the Saints, with three leading to Martinsburg scores to stretch the lead to 67-54 early in the fourth quarter.
Martinsburg went on another run, this one 12-0, fueled by six points by Elisha Freeman, another of the Bulldog bench players.
Grantham, who can play low and also go out front with a soft jumper, led the Bulldogs with a season-high 26 points on 9 of 19 from the floor and added five rebounds.
“He is beginning to step into his own,” Rogers said.
Jones finished with 12 points followed by Jordan Robinson with 11 and Freeman with 10.
Rogers was happy because the Bulldogs had just eight turnovers, while picking up 19 steals and dishing out 18 assists.
“This was a big game with a win in our section and it was a big game for the whole area,” Rogers said. “We’re happy to come out of the weekend 2-0.”
Obi Enechionyia and Thompson did their extreme bests, collecting 40 of the Saints’ points. Enechionyia ended with 23 and pulled down 10 rebounds while Thompson posted a season-high 17 points.
“I thought Obi responded well, but we’re still out to find ourselves,” Easton said. “Turnovers (27) were the story and I don’t think the final score reflects the final outcome. We had the fight in us and played incredibly hard in spurts.”
Saint James has a rematch with the Bulldogs in Martinsburg on Feb. 18.
Martinsburg 85, Saint James 56
Freeman 10, Robinson 11, Lewis 7, Jones 12, Cole 4, Grantham 26, Long 8, Hairston 2, Cooper 5. Totals 35 7-8 85.
SAINT JAMES (6-8)
N. Enechionyia 6, Harris 4, Slater 2, Carr 4, O. Enechionyia 23, Thompson 17. Totals 23 3-6 56.
Martinsburg 26 18 14 27 — 85
Saint James 14 16 20 6 — 56
3-point goals — Martinsburg 8 (Grantham 4, Jones 2, Lewis, Robinson); Saint James 4 (O. Enechionyia, Thompson 3). Fouled out — Harris.