CLARKSBURG -- It's quite likely that if the Grafton Bearcats had a home away from the Clair Bee Fieldhouse, they've found it at Robert C. Byrd High School.
Grafton won for the third time this season at RCB, defeating Lewis County, 64-43, Friday night for the Class AA, Region III, Section 2 championship. Grafton will now face the winner of tonight's Bridgeport-Lincoln game next Thursday for the Region III title and berth in the state tournament.
"This is a great place to play," said Grafton senior Cody Loughry. "I mean, we beat Byrd here earlier in the season and then win the sectional. We've done pretty well here."
Loughry scored a game-high 23 points, including 12 consecutive in the fourth quarter to put away the Minutemen (11-12).
The victory avenged a 35-27 loss in the season opener and the schools' only meeting this season.
"Our intensity was so much better tonight than that game that it made all the difference," Loughry said. "I just don't think they could play with us tonight.
"We played with a lot of emotion, and that set the tempo early and carried out the rest of the game."
Loughry, who also had a game-high six rebounds to go along with four assists and three steals, was one of three Grafton players to reach double digits. Point guard Andrew Moore added 10 points, five assists and four steals, and Andy Leach added 11 points.
The Bearcats made 10-of-17 attempts from behind the 3-point line.
"If they can shoot the ball like that, they'll be in any game," Lewis County coach Brett Vincent said. "They have a nice team. I said that when we played them at the beginning of the year. They just didn't make any shots that game."
Grafton made up for the loss in a hurry Friday, opening the first and second halves with a flurry from behind the 3-point line. The Bearcats opened each half going 3-for-3 from long range, effectively taking the Minutemen out of their desired slow-down tempo.
Grafton led 23-14 at halftime and pulled away in the third with a 9-0 run highlighted by a pair of Bryce Jones 3-pointers against a box-and-one defense employed on Loughry.
"When Cody's not scoring, it doesn't mean he's not playing," Grafton coach Steve Smith said. "He's rebounding, he's hustling and he's getting other people involved.
"They went to that box, and we just adjusted our offense to where we knew we'd get good looks. Bryce Jones is a good shooter. Andy Leach is a good shooter. Cody screened the guard for those guys and we hit three in a row. That was big for us."
The Bearcats shut down any offensive hope Lewis County had. Center Jordan Watson, who scored 22 in the previous meeting, was held to six points, while Cory Smailes followed with five.
Sophomore reserve Scott Arbogast had a team-high 10 points for Lewis County.
"We double-teamed Watson when he touched the ball and mixed it up with Smailes, playing him straight on and guarding him everywhere he goes," Smith said. "Our defense took him out of the game, and Watson, he's just a horse in there. The kids played with a lot of intensity."
Sports writer Michael Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org