MORGANTOWN — Heading into their Region 1 Section 2 semifinal game at home against Buckhannon-Upshur on Feb. 28, the Morgantown boys’ basketball team was on a serious roll.
Winners of eight straight, including a thrilling 4 OT victory over highly ranked Martinsburg, the Class AAA No. 7-rated Mohigans wanted nothing more than to keep the roll rolling all the way to an anticipated potential clash with No. 1 University.
All that stood in their way was a B-U team that MHS spanked twice already this season, by a combined 53 points.
Can you smell a trap?
Well, early on the Bucs battled well, shot lights out (especially Taylor Whitehair) and competed hard enough to take a one-point lead early in the second quarter.
But a blistering, defense-fueled, 23-4 run propelled the Mohigans to a comfortable halftime bulge and a momentum-preserving 83-58 win.
It was 25-24, B-U, with three minutes elapsed in the second quarter when MHS coach Dave Tallman called time out — and called his team out.
“Well, we weren’t playing defense the way we need to play,” Tallman explained, “and we seemed to need a reminder of what has made us successful. The guys really got after it after that.”
As it turned out, when the Mohigans’ defensive intensity got turned up from about 3 to about 8, that was pretty much the ball game right there. The 19-point advantage that stretched to the break gave MHS a 43-25 lead, and another solid stretch in the third quarter put it to bed for good.
Beyond the court, the events of the past week proved to be a valuable lesson in solidarity and support, as well.
“We haven’t practice in a week, because I didn’t think I should cross the picket lines at night when I wouldn’t during the day,” Tallman said, referencing this week’s statewide teacher’s strike. “The kids and parents have backed our decision, and we appreciate that. The boys have been practicing on their own, but the rust and lack of sharpness showed a little bit early on. It sure was nice to get back together where we belong, where we want to be.”
Mohigans swingman Cam Selders, whose 13 third quarter points (on his way to a game-high 22) nixed any thought of a B-U comeback, really liked the team’s vibe during the teachers’ work stoppage, and his team’s second quarter response, as well.
“We’re sticking together, and staying positive for each other and the teachers and coaches,” he said with a smile. “I really feel like we’re peaking at the right time, especially offensively. And now we have the game that everybody has wanted to see. We’ll be ready to give it all we have.”
Morgantown is scheduled to cross town to face University for the sectional title on Friday, tipoff at 7 p.m.