Tigers’ season ends with loss in region final

CHARLES TOWN – Washington completed its goal of getting back to the Class AAA tournament, punching its ticket with a 102-60 win over Elkins in a regional final Tuesday.

Josh Dudley started the Patriots off, just a small portion of a team-high 21-point performance from the hot hands of the senior.

He hit an easy basket to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead, but a 3-pointer by Elkins’ Braden Hammond gave the Tigers their only lead of the game.

After that it was Washington’s game.

Dudley spun around a defender and knocked down another basket to put the Patriots up 6-3, and a strong defensive performance on Washington’s end kept Elkins from getting any momentum inside.

“We’ve played pretty solid defense all year,” Washington coach Don Bullett said, happy his team was able to push the ball hard, creating turnovers and some easy points.

The Patriots closed the first quarter on an 18-6 run, giving up only a 3-pointer to Hammond and foul shots to Logan Phillips.

Some brotherly love lifted the Patriots to 35-16 to open the second quarter.

Maleke Jones stole the ball and passed to his brother, Jerome Jones, who hit a layup.

Elkins tried slowing the game down and was able to string together a 9-2 run, but Washington found a way to up the game’s tempo again, taking back control of the clock. Colby Gainer added seven of his 15 points late in the quarter for the Tigers.

Washington ended the quarter on a 15-3 run to close the first half, including Derrick Brunson scoring seven of his 11 points.

“The kids have been pretty focused. We battle in practice,” Bullett said.

The Tigers’ strength came from behind the arc, knocking down 3-pointers to keep them in the game as much as possible. Elkins scored 18 of its 31 first-half points from 3-point range.

“We were outmatched, but our kids always play hard,” Elkins coach John Lawson said. “You’ve got your work cut out for you. I’m proud of our kids. We competed.”

As Elkins started to show signs of fatigue, the Patriots pushed their lead to more than 40 points in the third quarter.

Phillips started to roll for Elkins, but it wasn’t enough to cut deep into the Patriots’ comfortable lead. He put up nine of his game-high 23 points in the third quarter.

Dudley hit the first and last shot of the quarter, proving to be a strong leader on offense for Washington.

“‘He’s been steady all year long,”‘ Bullett said. “‘He’s very unselfish. I call him our blue-collar worker.”‘

The senior played whatever role he needed to during the game, from grabbing rebounds to getting passes to open teammates, but on the scoreboard was where he shined.

“‘He sees the floor so well. He’s smart,”‘ Bullett continued, adding when Dudley transferred schools this year, he decided to come in and be a role player. “‘He does a little bit of everything. I’m happy he’s with us.”‘

Bullett gave the bench some minutes in the fourth quarter as the Patriots headed into the final stretch ahead 89-45.

“‘We got to play everybody tonight, and that’s always good for the team,”‘ Bullett said.

Kendell Smith pulled down a rebound and followed up with a shot to put Washington at 91 points, but Phillips completed a 3-point play and knocked down a bucket to put the score at 91-50.

Brunson answered with four points of his own, including a steal and a basket, for Washington.

“‘You can’t control the talent of the other team,”‘ Lawson said. “‘You can only control how you play.”‘

As the crowd’s excitement grew, wanting the home team to hit 100 points, Elkins went on a 10-3 run to hold the Patriots at 98 points for a few minutes.

The fans wish came true as Damarie Stewart hit his only shot of the game. A 3-pointer late in the quarter from Stewart put Washington up 101-60, and a foul shot by Kendall Coles capped the impressive win for Washington.

After losing to Martinsburg in the semifinals last year, the Patriots have a good bit of experience in Charleston.

“‘I think that has to be huge,”‘ Bullett said of the experience. “‘You’re familiar with your surroundings. Not only did we go down, but we played well last year.”‘

Dominique Newman and Smith added 12 points for Washington. Jerome Jones scored 18, and Maleke Jones put up 14 as part of the six Patriots in double digits.

It was announced late Tuesday that the Patriots will be the No. 1 seed in the Class AAA tournament.

They will return to action next Wednesday against an opponent to be announced later.