MORGANTOWN — The Morgantown High girls’ basketball team got off to a slow start Jan. 24, but a strong effort in the final 24 minutes allowed the Mohigans to pull even on the season with regional rival Wheeling Park, 51-40.
“I think our nerves were up in the first quarter, because they had a winning streak against us,” said junior Sydni Clawges, who led MHS with a 20-point performance. “Our biggest thing was just having that chip on our shoulder and saying we can do this.”
Wheeling Park took the Rowdy Center by storm in the opening quarter, locking MHS down with a high-pressure defense that forced mistakes and kept the Mohigans struggling to produce offensively.
“Because of their pressure, we were playing some individual basketball,” MHS head coach Jason White said. “We didn’t share the ball enough, we didn’t make the extra pass, too many turnovers in the first half.”
The quick, intense defense of the Patriots kept MHS uncomfortable, and the Mohigans had to work the ball to find open players all night.
“Their speed, they’re very fast,” Clawges said. “They put a lot of pressure, and the post players had to come up and help take the ball out, but we just looked for the open girl and got it to them.”
MHS adjusted as the second period got under way and responded with a huge 21-point quarter to gain a small advantage headed into the break. White, however, was still unimpressed.
“I got on our girls at half, we had a four-point lead but I don’t think we played very well,” White said. “I think we were very sloppy.”
The momentum swing was enough to carry over into the second half, and, combined with White’s halftime adjustments, helped MHS outscore its opponents in the third and fourth quarters to help avenge a loss to the Patriots.
The Mohigans defense substantially slowed the Patriots offense in the final 16 minutes of action, as MHS returned to the high level that which lifted it high in the polls this year, and once again looked like an elite program on the hardwood.
“That’s just a credit to our kids, that second half,” White said. “I’m really proud of our kids and their effort, even on a tough night.”
The second half also proves a confidence boost for MHS, which has struggled to consistently close games when leading late, such as a Monday night visit to Buckhannon-Upshur where a four-point lead headed into the final period turned an eight-point loss.
“We’ve had tough second halves,” White said. “To see our team finish a game, with a small lead as it was, was nice to see. It was nice to see us get some easy things and actually extend the lead a little bit.”
The Patriots were fourth on the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (OVAC) standings headed into the game, and the Mohigans fifth. The win provides a lift as MHS attempts to fight its way to an OVAC tournament appearance.
MHS moves to 10-4 on the season with the victory, and will return to action Jan. 25, traveling to Parkersburg South for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.