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No. 1 Fort Hill holds off upset-minded Keyser, 63-59

Feb. 1—CUMBERLAND — Despite a less than desirable performance for much of the night, Fort Hill executed when it mattered most to rebuff Keyser's upset bid.

Slowed by Keyser's 2-3 zone and 16 Tornado offensive rebounds, Fort Hill led just 54-53 late. But the Sentinels strung together four straight stops, hit six straight free throws and did just enough in the crucial moments to hold on.

Paced by Deshaun Brown's game-high 27 points and his perfect 9 for 9 performance at the charity stripe, No. 1 Fort Hill overcame a poor rebounding and offensive performance to down Keyser, 63-59, on Wednesday night.

"I thought Keyser played really hard. They out-hustled us in just about every aspect," Fort Hill head coach Thad Burner said. "We were very fortunate to win the basketball game because of that. They shot the ball well. I thought they played better defensively than we did. They rebounded better than we did.

"We made some free throws down the stretch. We just made a few more plays than they did. They played harder than we did, and we were more concerned with other things."

Few expected Keyser (5-9), without All-Area guard Noah Broadwater after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in a practice just four games into the season, to compete with Fort Hill (11-3), the area's top team, but the Golden Tornado nearly pulled off a stunner.

After falling behind 19-10 after the opening period — during which Brown poured in 13 points — Keyser got out of its 1-3-1 zone and dropped into a 2-3.

The move slowed down Fort Hill's offense, and Keyser attacked the offensive glass with seven offensive rebounds, outscoring the Sentinels, 19-9, in the second period to take a surprising 29-28 lead into the halftime locker room.

"We got a little confused offensively what we were trying to do," Burner said. "That second quarter, offensively and defensively, we were bad in all aspects."

Drew Matlick and Patrick Liller buried a pair of 3s in 27 seconds to give Keyser its first lead of the game late in the half.

The emergence of Grayson Lambka off the bench was a key part of the Tornado resurgence, as the sophomore pulled down six offensive rebounds. Kameron Samples had five offensive boards of his own off the pine.

"Biggest thing was making sure we rebounded the basketball," Keyser head coach Scott Furey said. "Defensively, we were able to execute what we wanted to do. We didn't want them to be able to dribble drive all over the place. Force them into jump shots. Deshaun hit a bunch early, and that got them going."

Samples finished with a team-high 12 points, and Lambka added 11. Along with Evan Ack's five points, Keyser outscored Fort Hill in bench points 28-5.

Keyser out-rebounded Fort Hill, 34-25, which helped to offset its 20 turnovers.

"We didn't box out, and they wanted the ball more than us," Burner said. "Hats off to (Lambka) and (Samples). Those guys came in and sparked them."

Fort Hill's pressure finally got to Keyser in the third quarter, and a series of turnovers helped fuel a 12-1 Sentinel run that pushed their margin to a game-high 43-32.

Jabril Daniels had three buckets in transition during the period, when he scored six of his 15 points. Gavin Carney ended with 11 points to join Daniels and Brown in double figures.

However, Fort Hill didn't keep up the intensity and Keyser didn't fold — the Golden Tornado responded with an 11-2 flurry and trailed only 48-44 after three.

A big moment occurred with Keyser trailing 52-49 with 5:20 remaining, as one of its best free-throw shooters went 0 for 3 in one trip to the charity stripe.

Keyser finished 8 for 16 at the foul line as a team, one day after going 13 for 29 in an 82-63 loss to Petersburg.

Fort Hill finished 14 for 20 at the stripe and Brown was 9 for 9. Fort Hill was 7 for 8 in the fourth quarter while Keyser missed 4 of 5 chances.

In a close game, every point matters, and Keyser found that out on Wednesday night.

"Those are the moments," Furey said of the free-throw misses. "One turnover, two or three missed free throws, it changes the complexity of the game."

Chase Davis hit a late 3-pointer as part of his 10 fourth-quarter points, but Keyser couldn't overcome its late missed free throws and turnovers.

Keyser's stretch doesn't get any easier, as the Golden Tornado host No. 3 Allegany (12-3) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Southern (9-6) on Monday.

Fort Hill will look to get right with a road matchup at Broadfording on Thursday night before hosting Southern Fulton on Monday at 7 p.m.

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.