The Dominion Post  

University boys wallop Wheeling Park, 80-45

Created on:   Wed, Feb 14, 2018   12:00 AM

Last modified:   Wed, Feb 14, 2018   12:00 AM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Any athlete, coach or fan can attest to the difficulties of playing away from home, so it’s no surprise that after a seven-game road stretch, University was feeling some wear and tear.

The difficulties of the late-season stretch, which included games in Charleston, Beckley, Parkersburg and western Maryland, showed as the Hawks struggled against Bridgeport as they returned home last week.

“We were just physically and mentally exhausted,” UHS head coach Joe Schmidle said.

Fortunately for the Hawks, they got their legs back Feb. 13 and pummeled Wheeling Park, 80-45, in an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference tournament semifinal match.

“We came out and did pretty good,” Schmidle said. “We were expecting Wheeling Park to give us a pretty good game, and they did for a little while.”

It was a form of redemption for UHS, which phoned in a lackluster performance against Park earlier in the season, barely pulling out a win on the Patriots’ home court.

“We played probably our second worst game of the year up at their place back in December, and they probably should have beaten us at their place,” Schmidle said. “We didn’t take Wheeling Park lightly tonight, that’s for sure.”

Schmidle credited the defense for getting the momentum rolling for the Hawks, as they smothered the Patriots with a full-court press that opened up the transition offense.

“I thought our defense sparked our offense,” Schmidle said. “We got some steals, which led to a few easy buckets.”

From there, the duo of senior Ethan Ridgeway and sophomore Kaden Metheny propelled the Hawks, combining for 43 points on the evening. They opened up the game from 3-point range for UHS, forcing Park to lengthen its defense to the perimeter and opening up room inside for UHS to attack the basket.

“Metheny and Ridgeway hit some 3s early on, and that extended their man to man defense and opened some lanes for us. When they get clicking like that, it gets us going,” Schmidle said. “Those two have some speed, and I think that created a mismatch for their guards.”

Park will return to UHS for the final game in their regular-season series on Thursday night.

“It’s extremely hard. That’s a trap game if I’ve ever seen one,” Schmidle said of the rematch. “We talked to the kids about it in the locker room — what that game means for us.”

Schmidle knows a loss Thursday may have huge implications in seeding for the state tournament, as University in neck-and-neck with Parkersburg South and George Washington in the top of the rankings.

“You’ve got South with one loss, us with one loss and George Washington with two losses. All of these teams are fighting for the number one seed,” Schmidle said. “I think the kids understand how important it is — last year, we were the number two seed and we had to go down there (to Charleston) and play on a Wednesday morning at 8:30, and I don’t think they liked that too much.”

The win also advances UHS to the OVAC finals. The Hawks will face Parkersburg South in a rematch from earlier in the season. The game is scheduled for a 4:45 p.m. tip-off Saturday, and will take place at Ohio University-Eastern, in St. Clairsville, Ohio.