Morgantown earns trip to state hoops tourney

BY BUBBA KAPRAL

Wheeling Newspapers

WHEELING — Morgantown prides itself on its suffocating defense.

The Mohigans are now state tournament bound thanks to another virtuoso defensive effort, stifling Wheeling Park, 58-33, March 6, in a Region 1 co-final.

Morgantown, coached by Magnolia grad Dave Tallman, takes a 17-8 record to Charleston. The Mohigans enter the tourney on a roll, winning nine of their last 10 starts.

They earned the No. 8 seed and will face — guess who? — crosstown rival University, the top seed, in the first round, at 7:15 p.m. March 14. University has won all three meetings with MHS this season, including a 58-55 win in the sectional final last week.

Wheeling Park, meanwhile, closed out its season with a 14-9 mark, a nice rebound from last season’s 9-14 campaign. Of the Patriots’ nine losses, three came at the hands of Morgantown, three to University and two to Parkersburg South, adding up to coach Michael Jebbia’s charges playing the third toughest schedule in the state.

“We hang our hats on our defense. We are holding teams to an average of 41 points a game,” Tallman said. Tuesday, “we did a nice job of mixing things up. We came out pressing and getting back into a 2-3 zone and then switched over to man(-to-man). I am pleased with how we executed.

“We have been through a lot of adversity due to the teachers’ strike. [Tuesday] is the first day I have been back with the team since the strike started. I am a teacher first. It’s been tough being away from my team.”

Morgantown set the tone of the night early on. The Mohigans built a 13-3 lead by the 1:56 mark of the first period. The visitors never looked back.

Tallman’s crew led 17-6 after the first quarter and 25-14 at intermission.

The Mohigans were on top, 38-24, entering the final chapter.

“Morgantown is a tough match-up. Their size caused us problems as they hurt us with their offensive rebounding,” Jebbia said. “They play defense as well as anyone. They make you work for everything.

“I thought it got away from us late in the second quarter. We were able to cut [the lead] to 20-14.

“But we let them close the half on a run and we found ourselves down by 11 at halftime.”

Junior Cameron Sel-ders turned in a sparkling effort for Morgantown. The multi-talented 6-foot-3 guard tallied a game-high 23 points, 11 coming in the first quarter to fuel the Mohigans’ quick start. He also delivered two impressive dunks.

Wide-body 6-6 junior Nick Malone was next, with 10 points.

“It’s nice getting back to the state tournament. That is our goal each year,” Tallman said. “This marks the third straight year we have made it. I am happy with how we are playing heading into the tournament.”

Tallman guided Morgantown to the state championship two seasons ago. The Mohigans did so in unbeaten fashion, giving the school its only boys’ state hoop crown.

Sophomore ace Alex Vargo was the lone double-digit scorer for Park, netting 11 points. The hosts committed 14 turn-overs, six more than the Mohigans.

Although the loss is a bitter one to swallow as it marks the end of the season, all is not gloom and doom for the Patriots. Jebbia righted the Park ship this winter without a senior on the roster.

“We made strides this year, both team-wise and individually. Our schedule was rugged but we will never back off from playing the best teams,” Jebbia said. “We still have a gap to close to rank with the top teams in the state. But we are definitely heading in the right direction. This was an enjoyable bunch to coach.”

— Single-session tickets for the state boys’ basketball tournaments are available via ticketmas ter.com for $9 (the price is subject to fees).

Single-session tickets also are available at the Charleston Civic Center box office.

General seating is $8, reserved seating $9.

You may still obtain book tickets of reserved seating for all eight sessions of the tournament for $64. They are available at the Civic Center box office or at 304-345-7469 (SHOW).

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