TIMES-NEWS STAFF WRITER
CUMBERLAND — Allegany and Bishop Walsh.
Bishop Walsh and Allegany.
They were just about joined at the hip this year as far as the high school boys basketball season was concerned.
No team was better than either of the two City rivals this year. That was proven every week and every month of the season.
Neither could shake the other, either. That, too, was proven throughout the season.
• They split their two games, each winning on their home floor, by similar margins.
• They each lost only two games to area teams: one to each other, and one to Fort Hill.
• They were City co-champions, along with Fort Hill, as all three City schools went 2-2 in the league.
• They were Appalachian Mountain Athletic League co-champions, a first for the conference.
• Both had two players voted to the All-Area team by head coaches.
And, after careful review of the entire season, the final voting in the Times-News Area poll turned out much the same: Area co-champions.
It’s only the third tie in the poll’s 41-year history, and first since Hampshire and Fort Hill tied for No. 1 in 1989. The only other came in 1977 when Bishop Walsh and Keyser shared the top spot. The area championship trophies, sponsored by the LaVale Walmart SuperCenter, will be presented at an early-season game next year.
This year each team received one first-place vote and three ties for first place and one second-place vote for 22 1/2 ratings points. Hampshire, Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge rounded out the top five.
Allegany has won eight area championships, with all eight coming in the last 20 years — the first two teams coached by Toby Eirich and the last six by Tedd Eirich.
Only Rick Harris, with seven, has coached more teams to area championships than Tedd Eirich, who has been the head coach at Allegany in 2001.
This year, Allegany had to find a way to make up for the loss of Tylor Jessie, who was the team leader and a force in the middle on offense and defense. The Campers did it with unselfish teamwork and desire. There were plenty of hurdles to clear along the way, but they never lost their focus.
“It seemed like a big rollercoaster of a season,” coach Eirich said. “We started off decent and were playing well, and then Trent (Eirich) went down with the injury. Then with him down, we had the big win over BW. It was huge how everyone stepped up.
“We brought up Darquel (Jessie), a sophomore, and then Trent got back ... all season we were mixing and matching, trying to get some cohesion. I give the kids a lot of credit for how they worked through all the turmoil all season. They showed great character in how they handled everything.”
The area championship is the fifth for Bishop Walsh, but first since 1987 under Mike Friend.
“This team was very special, and we’re all proud to be a part of it,” said coach Bob Boyle. “And I’m sure the boys will always remember how special of a team we had. They were unselfish and played the way a good team is expected to play.”
While Allegany had only two seniors, BW had eight. Several had already made names for themselves by leading the BW team to an undefeated season in the Tri-County League as eighth-graders.
From that day to the final ACIT game four years later, the Spartans left their mark.
“I thought our performance against Allegany in the second game when both teams were at full strength showed the type of team we were,” said Boyle. “All the players and coaches wish we could have had the Fort Hill game back. It was the poorest shooting night we had, and it was unfortunate that it came in a City game.
“Winning the Goretti tournament at the start of the year was a real highlight, and we came back from 22 points down against a very good Bishop McCort team in Johnstown, but lost in the final minutes because of some foul shots.
“There’s no doubt this was a special group. We faltered once or twice but we didn’t back away from anybody,” Boyle added. “We played in a tough tournament and were extremely competitive in Richmond, Va., and in the ACITs we were more competitive the last couple of years with this group than we were in the past.”
Allegany finished 19-6 overall and Bishop Walsh 21-10. Both were 14-2 in the AMAC and 2-2 in the City. They had one common out-of-town opponent in St. Maria Goretti of Hagerstown. Allegany lost 80-70 in its only game with Goretti. Bishop Walsh split two games, winning 63-51 in its season opener at Goretti and losing 54-39 late in the year at BW.
The home team won every game in the City League this season. Allegany beat Bishop Walsh 64-61 on Jan. 18, and Bishop Walsh won the rematch two weeks later, 59-49.
Quincy Redmon was voted the AMAC and Times-News Player of the Year by area coaches. He and teammate Liam Rhodes were first-team All-AMAC, All-City and All-Area. Hunter Marrale and Chris Scarlett were honorable mention All-Area.
Trenton Eirich and Christian Thomas were first-team All-AMAC, All-City and All-Area from Allegany. Bryce Nightengale was second-team All-Area.
Allegany will likely be one of the area favorites again next year, as the Campers lost only two seniors from this year’s team.
“We had two great seniors and defenders in Christian Thomas and Hayden Bosley, got great minutes from Bryce Nightengale, Trent Eirich and Colton Sivic, and our sophomores, Mario D’Atri and Darquel Jessie mixed in with everyone,” coach Eirich said. “It was fun year with the way everyone worked together and handled so many things.”
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org