MHS girls’ hoops eye return to state tournament

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — From 2014-16, the Morgantown High girls’ basketball program was the most dominant in West Virginia, winning back-to-back-to-back Class AAA state championships under head coach Jason White.

Since the Mohigans were crowned champions in 2016, though, momentum shifted downward. Not only has MHS not won another title in the last two seasons, it’s failed to make the state tournament at all.

Losing collegiate talent would hurt any team, but injuries and the rise of perennial contenders Buckhannon-Upshur and Wheeling Park within the region are also contributing factors.

But this season, led by 6-foot-1 senior center Sydni Clawges and up-and-coming sophomore Kaitlyn Ammons, the Mohigans hope for a return trip to Charleston.

The key, at least to White, is reclaiming the section and getting home court in the regional championship.

“We’ve been on the road at the last two regionals at Wheeling Park and we’ve come up short both times,” White said. “How do you host a regional? Well, you have to be the best team in your section, and that’s not going to be an easy task.”

Buckhannon-Upshur was the state runner-up each of the last two seasons. White believes University could have its best team in a long time and Preston beat MHS in the regular season two years ago.

To regain their dominance, the Mohigans will rely on their two post players in Ammons and Clawges. Not just from a skill perspective, but White is thrilled with how unselfish his bigs are.

“They’ll be two of the better posts in the state of West Virginia,” he said. “There will certainly be teams with a post that are as good as they are, but I don’t know if there will be any team with two posts as good as they are. They’ll be a big part of our success, but it’s no secret that they are, either. Every coach that we go up against will gameplan to take them away, and they know that.”

Along with Ammons and Clawges is a host of smaller, quick guards to play the perimeter. Madison Seman and Alexia Hughes missed a lot of time last year recovering from Mono but spent time learning from the bench. White expects both of them to contribute this season.

In their absence last year, Cat Wassick was forced into playing time but earned valuable minutes that should translate as a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Berit Johnson could be one of the best shooters on the team. Freshman Kerrington Peasak, at 5-foot-11, will provide depth in the post.

White also believes senior Jadyn LaNeve could start for a lot of other teams in the state, but she will be a key piece off the bench for MHS.

One area that is a concern is overall depth. The Mohigans can’t afford to get in too much foul trouble with only eight expected to get the bulk of the varsity minutes.

“We only have eight varsity players right now, but we have to get a team chemistry together,” Clawges said. “That’s the foundation of what we have to do — talk a lot more and get our defense going.”

Defense was critical to MHS’s success during the state title run, as White said, “We kind of made games ugly.”

With two tall post players and quick guards, he hopes to replicate what the Mohigans did to win.

“We’ve got really skilled offensive kids here, it’s seeing their potential come to fruition on the defensive end that I look most forward to,” White said. “We’ve got quick guards with a lot of size behind them and that has the potential to make for a really good defensive team.”

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