MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The University High boys’ basketball team just seems to have Morgantown’s number.
In the last nine meetings between the cross-town rivals — dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season — the Hawks boast an 8-1 record.
It’s a trend the No. 6 Mohigans would like to change as they travel to No. 4 University for a Class AAA top 10 showdown at 7:30 p.m. tonight, but they’ll have to do it without starting point guard and leading scorer Cam Selders, who will miss the game following a concussion sustained earlier this week.
“He got a concussion in the Martinsburg game, and the doctors want him to sit out at least a week. After that, he has to go through concussion protocol,” Morgantown coach Dave Tallman said. “He’s still not feeling great, but once he gets cleared by the doctors we’ll start the protocol. We’re looking at probably a couple weeks without him.”
For Morgantown, the injury could not come at a worse time. The Mohigans’ Achilles heel against the Hawks has been a lack of scorers, and now they find themselves without their best.
“They put three or four guys out there that can make open shots. That’s the big difference,” Tallman said. “They’ve shot the ball much better than we have. Defensively we’ve been pretty good, but at the end of the day the object of the game is to put the basketball in the hoop and they’ve done that a lot better than we have.”
University coach Joe Schmidle cited his team’s ability to stick to the game-plan and execute in high-pressure situations as the key to their offensive output in the rivalry.
“I’ve got good players that are also coachable players,” he said. “When you have good players that do what they’re told, you have a good chance of winning. Morgantown has had good players too, but we’ve been fortunate. We’ve been in a few of those games where it came down to the wire and we’ve had players that have made a big shot.”
The Hawks offense is led by the junior tandem KJ McClurg and Kaden Metheny, who terrorize opposing backcourts to the tune of a combined 47.2 points per game.
Tallman called Metheny, “the best player in the state,” and allowed that until the Mohigans find a strategy to slow the deadly University backcourt, it may be difficult to return to winning form against the Hawks.
“In the half-court, they’re a two-man show. They like to drive, but they have multiple shooters who can make shots. So if you double-team Kaden or KJ , they’re great passers and they’re going to find the open guy,” Tallman said. “Against us, those kids from University knock those shots down. If we make a pass, we’re not knocking the shots down right now.”
Tallman also looks to slow down the high-octane transition offense that McClurg and Metheny seamlessly execute. He feels if his team can control the tempo and force a half-court game, the Hawks become a much less dangerous opponent.
“They score off of rebounding and mistakes that you make — turnovers, and bad shots, that’s their meal ticket. They love to get out and run,” he said. “If we make them guard us and go down and contain them defensively, we have a shot.”
The Hawks know all too well just what Morgantown’s defense is capable of. The Mohigans held University to its two lowest-scoring games last season, and their second lowest-score so far this season.
To get past the Mohigans’ stout defending, Schmidle said his team will need to make extra passes and be selective with their decision-making.
“We’ve got to be disciplined. We have to share the ball, and we have to be patient,” he said. “If we can do those two things, we’ll have a chance.”