MORGANTOWN — The University boys’ basketball team has certainly seen plenty of ups and downs this season. After starting the year with three straight W’s, they’ve suffered through three- and four-game losing jags, only to enter last night’s home game with Elkins on a four-game winning streak.
However, against the Tigers, the Hawks were running on all cylinders, displaying a high-energy yet controlled brand of basketball at both ends of the court, as UHS forged a dominating 34-18 first-half lead and cruised to a complete, commanding 65-43 victory.
University coach Joe Schmidle was obviously pleased with every phase of his team’s game and considered this as one of their most complete performances of the season against a quality opponent.
“Part of our issues with consistency has been finding the right mix and the right roles,” he explained. “And (Thursday), we kind of put it all together for long stretches. These guys are playing so hard, with such passion, and they are really unselfish with playing time and with sharing the ball and making that extra pass. And we can go nine or ten deep, which keeps everyone fresh and in the game.”
The Hawks (11-8) took control early with an effective combination of sharp passing and cutting in their half-court offense and impressively energetic man defense, and they simply never backed off throughout the night.
The Tigers (11-9) tried to slow UHS down with half-court pressure, but the Hawks broke it every time, and Elkins’ talented leading scorer, Cory Harper was unable to shake loose from the tenacious clamps of University guard Landon Cool. A quick 9-2 opening burst from UHS led to a 13-7 first quarter lead, highlighted by Demarcus Bandy’s incredible snatch block at the rim of a Tigers attempted lay-up, followed up by his dribble drive in transition and a perfect dish to Carson Ford for an easy two.
The second quarter featured several beautiful screens and extra passes by the half-court Hawks offense, creating open looks from the perimeter and a whopping five triples as they ran out to that 16-point advantage at the break.
Any thoughts of a Tigers comeback were squashed by UHS’s smothering defense and their patient yet active offense that wore down the EHS defenders and extended the lead to 21 points after the third quarter.
“We are at our best,” Schmidle said, “when we can play fast but patient, and there’s nothing more demoralizing than to have to play hard on defense for a minute straight, only to give up an easy lay-up or open three. It affects a team on the offensive end as well. Nobody likes to play against a team like that, and so that’s what we’re after. People don’t think we’re very good, and that’s okay, but we’re getting better, and we haven’t played our best yet. We just need to keep working, and hopefully we’ll keep improving and finding ways to keep winning.”
Harper finally got going in garbage time, scoring 10 of his team-high 15 points in the final quarter after the final outcome was long since decided, but Ford nearly matched him with a trio of long, long-distance triples on his way to 17 points to lead all scorers. Lightning-quick Hawk point guard Rafael Barcinas nearly earned a triple-double with 11 points, 8 assists, and 8 boards, while center John Coleman chipped in 10 points to help UHS to their fifth straight win.
In the JV match-up, UHS prevailed 69-39. The Tigers’ AJ Friedman led all scorers with 13, while the more balanced Hawks were paced by Demarcus Bandy’s 12 points, with Ty Egnot-Jordan and Jack Byrer each scoring 10 in the win.
The Hawks remain at home against Spring Mills Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
BY MARK SCHRAF
University 65, Elkins 43
Elkins 7 11 8 17 – 43
University 13 21 13 18 – 65
ELKINS (11-9) — Max Jackson 0 1-2 1 Cory Harper 4 4-4 15 Tanner Miller 3 2-2 9 Addison McCauley 1 0-0 2 Malachi Watson 4 1-2 10 Hunter Harlan 0 1-2 1 Brock Holland 1 0-0 2 Aiden Lambert 1 0-0 3 Totals 17 9-12 43
UNIVERSITY (11-8) — John Coleman 5 0-1 10 Landon Cool 4 0-0 9 Carson Ford 6 0-0 17 Luke Hudson 3 0-0 Rafael Barcinas 5 0-0 11 Cody Thomas 1 0-0 3 James Fortney-Garbart 3 0-0 7 Totals 27 0-1 65
Three-pointers – EHS 6 (Miller, Harper 3, Watson, Lambert), UHS 11 (Cool, Ford 5, Hudson 2, Barcinas, Fortney-Garbart, Thomas)