By Greg Carey
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — University coach Joe Schmidle didn’t feel his team played sharply during Wednesday’s Class AAA quarterfinal against Musselman.
Still, the No. 2 Hawks were good enough to claim a 65-51 victory and advanced into Friday’s semifinal against the winner of George Washington-Cabell Midland.
“We’re happy to get the win, but that was probably one of our worst games we’ve played this season,” Schmidle said.
K.J. McClurg led University (22-4) with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Mike Maumbe posted 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Point guard Kaden Metheny finished with 15 points, all in the first half.
Taralle Hayden led Musselman (15-10) with 12 points, while Tre Beard scored 10. Cam Williams added nine points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
The Applemen, who got within six points in the fourth quarter, hurt their upset chances by shooting only 10-of-24 at the free-throw line.
“That’s a big part of the game,” coach Derek Basile said. “Unfortuantely, we’re not a very good free-throw shooting team. When you’re playing these caliber of people, you have to capitalize on all those opportunities.”
University built a 15-5 lead after one quarter, with Metheny scoring 10 points.
“It’s a big game and you’re on a big stage and we have a couple guys that haven’t played much here,” Basile said. “I’m not sure we were disjointed, but we had opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on.”
University outscored Musselman 11-5 over the final 4 minutes of the half — making six straight free throws — to lead 34-20. But the Hawks weren’t happy about being outbounded 25-18 to that point.
“We got outrebounded by a lot in the first half and that was our focus at halftime was to be more aggressive on the boards,” Schmidle said. “I think they answered the call.”
The Hawks led by at least 13 throughout the third quarter as McClurg and Maumbe combined to score 13 of the team’s 15 points in the period.
“Coach has believed in me this whole year and I’m glad I’m picking up my game when it counts,” Maumbe said.
The contest got tight in the fourth quarter, as the Applemen used a 9-2 surge to trail 51-45 after Hayden went on a personal 5-0 run in a span of 11 seconds.
With his team up by six and 3:59 left, University’s Rodney Bucklew made 1-of-2 free throws. The one Bucklew missed was rebounded by McClurg, who immediately went up and scored on a key sequence that stretched the lead back to nine.
The Hawks limited the Applemen to two field goals the rest of the way, and took a double-digit lead for good on Bucklew’s basket with 3:21 remaining.