MORGANTOWN — The University High boys’ basketball coach Joe Schmidle had a number on his mind during Tuesday night’s matchup against regional rival Wheeling Park — which was 15.
Fifteen was the number of points he hoped to hold Wheeling Park’s Keondre King and Alex Vargo under. If the Hawks could manage that, he felt confident in a win.
They fulfilled just one of those goals — King tallied 24 by himself — but a tremendous defensive effort by junior K.J. McClurg held Vargo to just four points on the evening, which proved enough as University (3-0) routed the Patriots 70-52.
“Defensively I thought we did a better job tonight. We held Vargo to four points — that’s probably a first-team all-state player,” Schmidle said. “King had 24 and Vargo had four, so we held them to 28 combined. That was kind of our goal.”
Vargo couldn’t seem to avoid the ire of the officials, and a pair of offensive fouls played a large role in limiting Vargo’s action early. Schmidle viewed it as a key to the win.
“They’ve got two great players. If you can take one of them out of the game then its monumental,” he said.
After jumping out to an early double-digit lead, Wheeling Park (1-1) outscored the Hawks 10-7 in the second quarter, chipping the University lead to eight at halftime. When the Hawks needed a spark, junior Kaden Metheny stepped up, nailing a 3-pointer to open the second half and scoring seven points in the opening minutes and controlling the tempo of action from point guard in an attempt to slow the Wheeling Park playmakers.
“I knew Vargo was in foul trouble, and in the second half I knew he’d come out trying to do a lot, and he’s capable of that. We knew we had to slow the game down and not let him get going,” Metheny said.
Schmidle knows that Metheny’s presence on the court will always demand attention, and found himself happy with his point guard’s choices while handling the ball.
“Anytime he has the ball in his hands, he’s everybody’s concern. He came out and hit a big 3 to start the second half and I think that got him going,” Schmidle said. “He’s obviously got the green light.
“He made really good decisions when driving the ball towards the basket, and I think he wore [Jack] Stakem down — he was visibly tired towards the end of the third quarter.”
Metheny led the Hawks with 22 points, while McClurg added 20 points. King paced the Patriots in scoring, with De’Vaughn McWhorter hitting 14 points. University returns to action at 8 p.m. on Friday night as the Hawks battle Woodrow Wilson at Morgantown.