Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports

THRONE HOLDERS: No. 1 Morgantown looks to stay strong through state tournament, secure first 4A title

MORGANTOWN – The Morgantown High boys’ basketball team only slipped out of the top spot in the state Associated Press poll for less than two weeks during the regular season before reclaiming its throne, riding into the sunset games – including sectionals and regionals – on a 12-game win streak. 

Thus, it was only right the Mohigans, following their final overwhelming victory over Buckhannon-Upshur in the Region I co-final, slid into the No. 1 spot in the Class 4A state tournament bracket. The win marked their first year back in the state tournament after losing to Wheeling Park in the Region I co-final in 2020. 

“We’re ready. We’re hungry. We’re excited,” MHS coach Dave Tallman said. “It’s been a year where the 16 guys (coaches and players) in our locker room have had to stay mentally tough and together. It hasn’t been easy but now we’re where we want to be. I give our coaches and players a lot of credit for sticking together and getting the opportunity to compete for a title. We’re a tight-knit group in our locker room.” 

The Mohigans’ one-loss season – a loss to Robert C. Byrd later avenged in Clarksburg – is one of their best, and the second time in Tallman’s tenure they’ve entered the tournament as the top seed.

And the last time Morgantown was the No. 1-seed? That was 2016, the year it won the AAA title after an undefeated 27-0 year.

Next comes a meeting with No. 8 Woodrow Wilson, and when asked what he’ll share with his players before the game, Tallman said, “Do what we do. Play hard, play smart, play together.”

“If we do those things then we’ll be successful,” he added.

Still, the quarterfinals match up isn’t entirely surrounded by excitement. Earlier this week, heartbreaking news came out of Beckley as senior sixth-man Dwayne Richardson was killed in an accidental shooting Sunday night. According to police, the senior was killed by Jeriamiah Fortney, 20, of Beckley who accidentally shot Richardson while recklessly handling an AR-15.

In an interview with MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval, Tallman noted his close relationship with the Woodrow Wilson basketball program and shared his heartbreak in the wake of Richardson’s death. Tallman has been in contact with the team and planned on reconnecting with them in Charleston on Wednesday night.

“We’ve reached out,” Tallman said. “They’re hurting. We’ve been praying for them. I’ll talk to them more when we get to Charleston. Our prayers are with Dwayne’s family and friends.”

Sideline inbound is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Not thinking ahead

When asked about a hypothetical match up with University High in the semifinals, Tallman didn’t want to think ahead. Further, when asked about the chance of making history as the first 4A state champion, Tallman said his team needs to trust in its defense to “just keep doing what we do.” 

“Share the ball and execute. If we lock down on defense it will give us a great chance to be successful,” he said. “It would mean a lot [to win the title] but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us before it comes to that. We’re going to take it one game at a time … one play at a time. If we’re fortunate enough to win it then we will let our thoughts and emotions loose then. We have to deserve to win with our effort and execution.”

Morgantown has held teams to an average of 48.4 points per game through their 18 games, regular and postseason, and has posted an average of 69.3 per game. 

Well rounded

Morgantown’s offensive production is very well-rounded. Guard Brooks Gage and forwards Carson Poffenberger and Alec Poland lead the team with 12.5 points per game, while other guards Luke Bechtel (12.5), Xavier Pryor (8) and Sha-Ron Young (8) are also in or near double-digit averages.

In rebounds, Bechtel and Cam Rice lead the team with 4.3 per game, while Gage and Poffenberger register 3.5 per game. Finally, Pryor averages 6 assists per game. 

A day of upsets

In the first round of the 3A tournament Wednesday, both No. 1 Robert C. Byrd and No. 2 Fairmont Senior were knocked out by No. 8 Hampshire and No. 7 Winfield, respectively.

TWEET @andrewspellman_