ROMNEY, W.Va. — After finishing 15-5, making the state tournament for the first time in school history and defeating the No. 1 seed when it got to Charleston, Hampshire has been named the 2020-21 Area Champion by the Times -News.
The award is Hampshire’s first area crown since 1996 when the Trojans, coached by Larry See, finished 21-2, and it’s their fourth overall. Hampshire won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990, during which the Wayne Mathias-coached squad went a combined 39-6.
The 2020-21 Trojans began the season 3-0 before dropping their next four, but they found a second wind, winning 12 consecutive games.
The final triumph of that stretch was the big one, as Hampshire, seeded No. 8 by the Class AAA coaches at the tournament, upset No. 1 Robert C. Byrd, 53-47, to make history.
Hampshire’s quarterfinal victory marked the first time since coaches’ seeding began in 2005 that an eighth seed defeated a top seed — No. 8 seeds went 0-45 over that span.
Entering the season, what was the expectation for Hampshire? Make states for the first time in school history. The Trojans achieved that, but they did one better.
The key to Hampshire’s success, head coach Dan Alkire said, was the squad’s willingness to play team basketball.
“Everyone had a common goal and everyone knew their role,” Alkire said. “I think their team chemistry was big. Everyone put aside personal accomplishments to achieve that as a group.”
That group was led by the steady presence of guard Drew Keckley, who was also named the Area Player of the Year by area coaches after tallying team-highs in points (11.7 per game), assists (2.9) and 3-pointers (33) , but Keckley wasn’t alone.
Four other Hampshire Trojans made the All-Area team, with Trevor Sardo landing on the first team, and Mikhi Anderson, Christian Hicks and Carter Smith filling out the second squad.
“The guys had a purpose and a drive,” Alkire said. “It was exciting to see where those kids went from as sophomores and juniors, to what they became in their senior years. It was good as a program and a community to see how far they grew.”
So, while it was a surprise to the state at large that Hampshire had sprung the biggest upset in 15 years at the state tournament, it was of little surprise to those who saw the Trojans play.
It also didn’t hurt that Alkire had been exposed to a kindred experience during his playing days at Hampshire.
In 2000, Alkire helped quarterback Hampshire, with the help of record-setting running back Bryan Wright and second-year head coach Sean Biser, to its first football playoff appearance in school history. However, the Trojans stumbled in a blowout loss at Parkersburg in the first round.
The hardwood rendition of that Cinderella story had a far different ending.
“We were happy to make it, and we didn’t go down and perform,” Alkire said of the football team. “(Last year) our kids went down there to win.”
And win they did.
While that run, which ended with a loss to Wheeling Central Catholic in the state semifinals, was marvelous, Hampshire lost six seniors to graduation, and the Trojans were surely in for a season of growing pains in 2021-22.
That was certainly true, but, despite having a roster chock full of inexperience, Hampshire finished 12-10. The season’s highlight was a stretch of seven wins in eight games that culminated with an upset of Class AAA Top 10 squad Musselman on Jan. 25.
For that to be considered a rebuilding season, Hampshire’s program must be headed in the right direction. The 2021 Area Championship-winning squad laid the groundwork.
“Last year started an expectation,” Alkire said, “a standard or even a belief of why not?”