Joe Smith, Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports

Morgantown boys’ basketball team prefers to play tougher schedules

MORGANTOWN  — It’s all about getting better each game for Morgantown.

It wouldn’t be tough for the Mohigans to play a lackluster schedule and win 20-plus games each season, after all. There’s no shortage of beatable teams around West Virginia and surrounding states, and they wouldn’t have to go far to put together an easier schedule.

Instead, the program has chosen a much more difficult path — one which featured games against No. 4 Class AA Logan and Pennsylvania private school powerhouse Kennedy Catholic last weekend at the American Homes Holiday Classic, and will continue with a trio of national opponents at the Disney Holiday Tournament, which kicks off today in Orlando.

According to MHS coach Dave Tallman, the choice boils down to more than just playing winnable games, but games that will result in tangible growth for his team

“We got better and we found out a lot about our team. We found out about some things that we need to do better and we need to work on, and that’s way better than going and beating somebody by fifty,” Tallman said following the team’s loss to Kennedy Catholic. “It’s very healthy for our program.”

The caliber of competition puts the Mohigans in game situations that Tallman believes allows them to experiment with different styles of play and forces them adjust on-the-go.

“This tournament forced us to learn how to play a bunch of different ways. We started out man-to-man against Logan, and we switched to our 1-3-1 and that won us the game,” Tallman said. “We had to scratch and claw and fight.

“Against Kennedy Catholic, as soon as we threw the ball to the wing they were double teaming us. I thought we did a good job throwing out of the traps and fighting open shooters.”

These types of games also bring Morgantown face to face with Division I talent — which have the skill to change games by themselves. The American Homes Classic brought numerous future college players to town, including three-star WVU prospect David Early and five-star WVU signee Oscar Tshiebwe.

“Playing those type of players is a great opportunity to learn how our team chemistry is,” senior Nick Malone said. “When we went to the Triangle-and-Two that messed up their offense and that’s a different way we can defend another team now.”

Tallman said the tough schedule has revealed an important early-season lesson — his team may not be at a championship level yet, but it has the correct mentality and composure to take the court against elite competition.

“I think what I learned is that we were really composed,” Tallman said. “Against Logan we got down 18-11, but we switched up our defense and stayed composed.

“Against Kennedy Catholic, there was all this hype about Oscar [Tshiebwe], but I don’t think our guys were intimidated. They knew we were playing against a future NBA player, but they battled and gave everything they had.”

Malone said learning to handle such high-pressure scenarios on the court and fight through them will be an asset as the team heads into the second half of the regular season.

“It’s the adversity,” Malone said. “We faced adversity both times last weekend and we fought back and played well ”