MORGANTOWN — University High boys’ basketball head coach Joe Schmidle was nervous heading into its rivalry game against Morgantown High, at the Rowdy Center, on Jan. 26.
For the first half, he had every right to be.
The Hawks, averaging 82.4 points per game, limped into the locker room at halftime with 17 points and trailed the Mohigans by six. UHS was resilient, though, and rebounded with 30 points in the final 16 minutes to pull the regular-season sweep, 47-41.
“I didn’t have a good feeling all day, I don’t know what it was,” Schmidle said. “I didn’t feel any energy from our kids. I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t there.”
MHS strangled the Hawks on the defensive end from buzzer to buzzer, aiming to slow the fast-paced, high-octane UHS offense and bring the game into the half-court setting.
“We stuck with the game plan, things just didn’t go our way,” said MHS head coach Dave Tallman. “But I see a lot more positives than negatives here.”
As the game settled into the preferred MHS pace, the Hawks particularly struggled in the post, as Mohigan juniors Lamar Haskins and Nick Malone accounted for nine of the MHS 23 first-half points in the paint. Malone used his size to bully the Hawks big men all night, pulling down numerous rebounds and earning second-chance points for MHS.
MHS also found a spark in junior Aaron Alvarez, who added eight first-half points en route to pacing the Mohigans with 11 on the night.
“We were just crashing the boards hard, getting offensive rebounds, and taking what their defense gave us,” said Alvarez of the first-half performance. “It’s nothing complicated, we were just playing hard.”
For a while, it looked as if UHS was doomed to repeat the same mistakes as they had earlier this week in their first loss of the season, and that they might drop two in a row after opening with nine straight victories.
“I was kind of having flashbacks, we played a really bad fourth quarter at Parkersburg South, and we were doing a lot of the same things in the first half tonight,” said Schmidle.
The game was a tale of two halves, however, as the Hawks came out rejuvenated in the third quarter and slowly started clawing their way back into the game.
“At halftime, we got refocused a little bit, and came out in the second half and we were more patient,” Schmidle said. “I think we turned it up a little bit on defense, and kept them off-balance.”
UHS brought the score within three to start the fourth quarter, and sophomore Kaden Metheny nailed two daggers from deep to switch the momentum and put the Hawks in front, where they would stay for most of the final stretch.
“I’ve been in those situations my entire life,” said Metheny. “I knew we need that boost, and I’m glad I could get the victory for us.”
“He’s a gym rat, he’s a great kid, he deserves to make those shots,” said Tallman of Metheny. “We know that he’s lethal, he’s dangerous, and he’s done it every game we’ve played them.”
MHS returns to action Monday, as they host sectional rival Buckhannon-Upshur, while UHS will next take the court Tuesday, when they visit Fort Hill (Md). Both games will start at 7:30 p.m.