MORGANTOWN — It’s often said that defense wins championships, but that’s only true if you can play it well an entire game.
The Morgantown High boys’ basketball team learned that lesson the hard way Jan. 10.
The Mohigans held University High 22 points under its season average and limited the Hawks to 40 points through three quarters.
However, the defense broke down late, and a 25-point fourth quarter lifted the Hawks over Morgantown, 65-49.
“They had 44 points with four minutes to go, and they ended up with 65,” MHS head coach Dave Tallman said. “I think we guarded for about three quarters, but in the fourth quarter they kicked our butt pretty good.”
Tallman attributes the breakdown to simply being outplayed by a tougher opponent.
“They wanted it a little bit more than us,” he said. “They just outplayed us the final four minutes of the game, and that’s the whole story.”
Defense was the name of the game for most of the evening, as Tallman threw several looks at the Hawks, keeping them on their toes and off their game for most of the first half.
“They’re only giving up 40 points a game,” University head coach Joe Schmidle said. “I think they’re the best defensive team in the state. I knew for us to have a chance to win this game, we’d have to score at least 55.”
For a large part of the game, the Hawks’ goal of 55 points seemed like a pipe dream, and the aggressive, in-your-face mentality of the Mohigans stifled their opponent’s shooting efforts.
“I wasn’t real happy with our shot selection in the first half,” Schmidle said. “At halftime, we made some adjustments, and made sure we were a lot more patient with the ball on offense. I think that’s what changed the tide of the game, when we made them play hard defense.
“I think they got a little tired, and that’s when their shots stopped falling.”
The Morgantown offense once again failed to produce consistently and make big shots when needed, a trend that has hampered the Mohigans from day one of the season.
“When it came to crunch time, they made clutch shots and we didn’t,” Tallman said. “We just need guys to step up. They had guys that stepped up in crunch time. We lost to Fairmont Senior. They had guys that stepped up in crunch time. I’m still waiting for one or two guys when it’s crunch time that will step up and make something happen.”
One such player for the Hawks was sophomore Kaden Metheny, who rained 25 points down on the Mohigans, including a 10-point effort in the final eight minutes.
“These games are always close games, always competitive with this atmosphere,” Metheny said. “We weren’t patient on offense at first, but once we started moving the ball and working as a team, we got some open shots.”
Senior Jayron Wilson provided a spark for the Mohigans, pacing his squad with 12 points on the night. Alas, the effort wasn’t enough to lead Morgantown to victory.
“I think we played hard, but we just couldn’t finish out the game,” Wilson said. “I just give glory to God for allowing me to step up and show my talents.”
The loss moves Morgantown to 5-4 on the season, while University stayed undefeated, at 9-0.
The Mohigans return to action Jan. 12, as they travel to John Marshall for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.
Meanwhile, the Hawks play Alleghany (Md.), at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13.