MORGANTOWN — Of the 73 wins for the University boys’ basketball team over the last three seasons, none felt as good as Friday’s Class AAA state semifinal win over Cabell Midland.
The No. 2 Hawks (23-4) have made the trek to the Charleston Coliseum for the state tournament, but the past two trips ended in semifinal losses. Friday may have marked a change in that trend, but head coach Joe Schmidle isn’t content yet.
“It feels really good, but it doesn’t feel complete. If you don’t finish it, then you just – you have to finish it. We’ve come down here the last three years and we’ve had really good teams, but we haven’t been able to finish it,” he said.
The win marks the first state championship appearance for the Hawks in school history, but they have the tallest task in the state in front of them if they want to take the accomplishment one step further. They will meet undefeated No. 1 Martinsburg (27-0), which eliminated University from the postseason last year. The elusive goal of a state title still hangs over the Hawks’ heads, and being the first group within the program to capture it would be a point of pride for this team.
“When I took this job, all I heard was everyone saying we’d never be any good, that University would never be a basketball school. The kids that I’ve had the last three or four years have really worked their tails off in order to change that, and now we just have one more step. We just have to take it,” Schmidle said.
The Hawks boast a high-octane offense led by the elite backcourt of Kaden Metheny and K.J. McClurg, who average 43.9 points per game combined, but expect to run into their toughest challenge yet against a Martinsburg defense that allows just 40 points each time out.
“Their defense is so good. No one has scored more than 58 on them all year. They’re very athletic, they’re long, they’re aggressive, and they’re very disciplined. They have an eight or nine man rotation, and they’re all like that. It allows them to play very intense defense for the entire contest,” Schmidle said.
“We’re going to have to be very patient – patient enough to make them make mistakes on defense and take advantage of it. We’re not going to out-athlete them. We’re going to have to also handle their pressure. They won’t beat themselves, I’ll tell you that.”
The Bulldogs will enter against the Hawks with four players averaging double-digits, led by senior Grant Harman with 11.1 per game. The others are Teddy Marshall, Telryn Villa and Qualeke Bush.
University will look for big games offensively from players that don’t find the scoreboard as often to combat the numerous weapons they’re sure to see.
“They have different guys that step up each night, and that’s what makes them tough to play. You have to key in on everybody and when you have to key in on four to five people, that is tougher than keying in on one or two. But that being said, our supporting cast has stepped up really well lately,” he said.
The game will tip at 7:15 p.m. Saturday and will be streamed live at wvmetronews.com.