Joe Smith, Morgantown, Sports

Morgantown boys pull away in overtime to beat Wheeling Park 55-52

MORGANTOWN — As Morgantown senior Nick Malone stepped to the foul line in overtime against No. 5 Wheeling Park Friday night, it seemed to be just another ordinary play. What happened next would secure a 55-52 victory for the Class AAA No. 10 Mohigans.

Malone converted his first shot, giving Morgantown a 50-49 lead. His second shot, however, was off the mark.

Senior Aaron Alvarez was surrounded by Wheeling Park players, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from getting a hand on the ball. Alvarez leaped, a white jersey sandwiched in-between blue, and tipped the ball back to his team.

The ensuing possession ate over a minute of clock and ended in a pair of Cam Selders free throws — putting Wheeling Park at a deficit it would fail to recover. It was just one of numerous standout plays from Alvarez late in the game.

“Aaron has done that for us his whole career here. He hasn’t gotten much time, and we probably need to find a way to get him in there more,” Morgantown coach Dave Tallman said.

“He went in there and played his rear-end off and we don’t win this game tonight without him.”

Alvarez stepped up when the Mohigans desperately needed a spark of energy. They trailed Wheeling Park at 37-30 to start the fourth quarter, and appeared to be headed towards their fourth loss in their last six games.

They were struggling to find a hot hand offensively and it seemed as if the energy had deflated from the sideline. Then Alvarez knocked down his first 3-point basket of the night.

Another deep ball from Alvarez would later bring the game within two possessions, and after a Nick Malone basket tied the game 49-49 with under 30 seconds to play, it was Alvarez who came up with the steal to keep Wheeling Park off the scoreboard and gave his team the last shot.

“We have 11 or 12 guys, sometimes even 15 deep, and [Coach Tallman] trusts all of us to go out there and play,” Alvarez said. “It’s not a matter of if you’re going to get that spark. You’re going to get it from someone eventually.

“Sometimes someone just has to step up and make it happen. It’s just what we’re expected to do when we come on the court.”

The game was only the third loss for Wheeling Park this season, and Tallman expects it to serve as a reminder that Morgantown’s record (11-6) is not indicative of how good he believes his team actually is.

“Our six losses are to a team from Miami, a McDonald’s All-American, the No. 2 Class AAA team in the state, University, twice, the No. 1 AAA Martinsburg and the No. 2 AA team,” he said. “We’ve competed, and that’s why win games like this, because of our schedule.”