Local Sports, Preston, Sports, University

Hawks roll in win over visiting Knights

MORGANTOWN — While it’s not always the case, sometimes you get an early indication of how a basketball game is probably going to go, and Thursday’s University girls home match-up against Preston was one of those games. The Hawks forced three turnovers and converted them into three straight 3-pointers – two from behind the arc by Hannah Stemple and a conventional and-one from Ella Simpson – all in the first 109 seconds. 

And it was pretty much more of the same the rest of the way, as UHS forged a dominating 40-14 first-half lead and cruised to an 85-38 victory.   

UHS coach Nick Lusk was pleased with every phase of his team’s game, but one stat really caught his eye. 

“Six turnovers is excellent,” he grinned. “We’ve struggled all year with turning it over, and our goal is to be under 12. And I thought that our transition game was great. We have to turn the ball over on defense and get out and run when we can, and we were very good tonight. We shot it well, but we also shared the ball nicely, and high-quality shots help your offense, too. It was a very good night.” 

The Hawks (8-5) used some hot shooting and a very effective full-court pressure defense to force multiple turnovers that they efficiently converted into points. The first quarter UHS lead topped out at 22-7 before Preston’s Emma Wilson scored five straight points late to cut the advantage to 10 at 22-12. 

But Preston (4-9) has struggled with some brutally long in-game offensive cold spells this season, and in the second quarter, their chilly shooting woes returned, as they could only score two points while surrendering 18 to the University offense. It added up to a commanding 36-point Hawks lead at the break. 

While the Knights took much better care of the ball in the second half, cutting their turnovers from 20 in the first 16 minutes to just five in the second half, the Hawks continued their solid offensive effort behind forward Lexi Simpson, who hit five third-quarter field goals in the paint on her way to 14 points. UHS led 67-25 after three, and down the stretch in the fourth, Brianna Fox hit consecutive triples late to close out the scoring. 

Along with Simpson, Hannah Stemple scored 19, including a trio of 3’s, to pace the eleven Hawks who scored, while Cameryn Sypolt scored 10 and Kendra Nazelrod scored 9 to lead the Knights. 

Preston coach Brian Miller admitted that his team didn’t handle the Hawks’ pressure well, but he saw good news for his team on a bad night. 

“In actuality, this was really the first we’ve been pressed this much by a team since our second game of the year,” he explained, “and we went big compared to their fast line-up, so we hoped we could break it by going over the top. It didn’t work for us, but we also made more mental errors tonight than we have all year. Self-inflicted problems can be fixed, especially if we remember to just do what we’re asked to do, so that’s a good sign. We’ve bounced back every time we haven’t played well, so I hope that trend continues for sure.” 

For the Hawks, they’re hoping the clean, solid, complete game continues to trend as well, as they have a big rescheduled game Saturday night against Morgantown.  

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Lusk said. “MHS is always a state title contender, and playing them is a measuring stick game for us. I’d love it if we played this well this weekend.”  

In the JV match-up, UHS prevailed 55-27. The Hawks’ Alexa Johnson led all scorers with 14, and her teammate Brianna Fox hit for 12, while Myla Wotring paced the Knights with 8. 

The Knights travel to Class AAA Fairmont Senior next Wednesday, tip scheduled for 7:30 p.m., while the Hawks remain at home for a big make-up game Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against rival Morgantown.  


Preston       12    2   11    13  –  38 

University   22  14   27   18  –   85 

PRESTON (4-9) — Emma Wilson 2 2-2 7; Hallie Simmons 1 0-0 2; Kendall Stiles 2 0-0 4; Kendra Nazelrod 2 5-6 9; Cameryn Sypolt 2 5-8 10; Hannah Zuchowski 1 0-0 3; Gracie Wilson 1 1-2 3; Totals 11 13-21 38 

UNIVERSITY (8-5) — Ash Weaver 2 1-2 5; Julia Maisel 1 0-0 3; Emily Sharkey 2 0-0 5; Brianna Fox 3 0-0 8; Eden Gibson 3 1-2 7; Lexi Simpson  14; Alexa Johnson 1 1-4 3;  Aza Boatang 3 1-2 7; Ella Simpson 11; Hannah Stemple 8 0-0 19; Addison Kitzmiller 1 0-0 2; Totals 35 7-13 85 

Three-pointers – PHS 3 (E. Wilson, Sypolt, Zuchowski), UHS 8 (Sharkey, Stemple 3, Maisel, L. Simpson, Fox 2) 

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