The Dominion Post  

Boys’ basketball: UHS hoping for return trip to state tourney

Created on:   Mon, Nov 20, 2017   8:21 PM

Last modified:   Mon, Nov 20, 2017   8:21 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The University High boys’ basketball squad trades 3-point attempts during a mid-afternoon practice Nov. 20 when a shrill whistle fills the gymnasium. The boys stop and turn towards the center of the gym.

“Can someone tell me what a good shot is?” asked UHS head coach Joe Schmidle. He does not receive an answer.

“A good shot is an open shot with no one closer to the basket, or an open shot that’s in your range,” Schmidle said. “You guys are chucking up threes with a hand in your face after one or two passes — that’s not a good shot.”

His boys are eager to correct their mistake, and the next possession of the scrimmage sees each player touch the ball before an inside dish opens up a scoring opportunity in the post. According to Schmidle, patience on offense could be the key to victory for his squad this winter.

“We like to get the ball up and down the floor and try to score in transition.” he said. “When we’re in halfcourt sets, we need to focus on being more patient. The three games we lost last year were all because of our lack of focus and probably taking outside shots we shouldn’t have been taking.”

Schmidle expects that with an added year of experience under their belts, his team will handle such on-court situations with more poise.

“Those are things that, as seniors with maturity, the kids have to be able to understand — if they’re not going down, we need to get it inside,” Schmidle said. “And we can, we’re quick enough and move the ball well enough. We just need to be more selective.”

The Hawks look to improve on a successful 2016-’17 campaign, which saw a finish 24-3 and a trip to Charleston for the WVSSAC Class AAA State Tournament. The Hawks were knocked out in the penultimate round by Huntington, the eventual state champion.

The Hawks lose just three seniors, though that includes key starter Geoff Hamperian, a first team all-state selection who averaged 16 points and seven boards. UHS will turn to key returners, such as three-time varsity letterman Ethan Ridgeway.

“I’m just trying to do as much as I can to help my team win. I’ll do anything basically, from defense to offense,” Ridgeway said. “We want to make it to states again.”

Ridgeway averaged 17 points per game last winter, and will be joined by returning starter and sophomore guard Kaden Metheny, who also averaged double digits last season, with 10 points per game.

“I think we’re bringing a lot back; we have six or seven seniors on the team and a couple of them have been on varsity all four years,” Schmidle said. “Ethan Ridgeway is a four-year starter, and Kaden Metheny is a sophomore, a Division-I recruit, and was third team all-state as a freshman last year. Storm Leftridge has really improved his range and his game, and Clay Bailey will be a surprise this year.”

Schmidle noted that Bailey will be more than “just a role player” this season, as he has been viewed in the past, and that they’ll look to him for a variety of tasks on the court.

“I think Clay is going to open up a lot of eyes this year,” Schmidle said.

Schmidle also believes that, beyond Metheney, his younger talent will fill some key roles as well.

“We got some really good young guys. Rodney Bucklew, we’re looking for him to contribute this year, he’s pushing for a starting job. Mike Maumbe, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, has improved a lot since last year,” Schmidle said.

Schmidle expects that Maumbe and Bucklew will help Leftridge lead the team on the glass.

“We’ve got a lot of kids with a lot of potential, and we just have to make that potential perform,” Schmidle said.

As usual, Schmidle expects a tough battle from Morgantown within the conference, as well as the region, with a stout Wheeling Park team also in the regional mix. However, he has confidence is his squad to repeat a trip to Charleston.

“I think we should have a pretty good chance to go back. We have as good of a chance any anyone, and I’d be disappointed if we didn’t make it.”