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University hosts Preston to tip off postseason play

MORGANTOWN — The University girls’ basketball team knows exactly what they need to do with the postseason set to begin Wednesday for the Hawks, opening the sectional tournament hosting Preston.

Look no further than their regular-season finale last week against Hampshire: when you share the ball to get open looks, and play solid defense on top of it, good things tend to happen.

UHS is the top seed in Class AAAA Region I, Section 2 after finishing the regular season 14-7 under second-year head coach Nick Lusk.

The last time the Hawks played the Knights was Jan. 12, a rousing 85-38 win for UHS in Morgantown.

Preston head coach Brian Miller “does a really good job with them,” Lusk said. “They’re a young team and we discussed that earlier in the year. I’m sure he’s gotten them better since the last time we played them. I haven’t seen them since then, but he does a great job and always gets them better throughout the season, so it’ll be a good test.”

Junior Ella Simpson leads the way for UHS, averaging 16.8 points per game this season, but right behind her is sophomore Hannah Stemple, who is scoring at a 14.5 points-per-game clip.

Simpson, who was a big part of last year’s team that lost to Morgantown in the co-regional championship, is ready get the postseason started against the Knights.

“If we come out and we play like we know how to play, then we should definitely continue to move on and play in the sectional championship,” she said. “But we need to make sure we don’t take anyone lightly because it could be anyone’s game since it’s the playoffs.”

The first round of the sectional tournament is win-or-go-home, so the loser’s season is finished while the winner advances to the sectional title game. The winner of the section hosts a regional co-final, while the loser hits the road to play the Section 1 champion.

On the opposite side of the bracket are 2-seed Bridgeport and 3-seed Buckhannon-Upshur, and the two will also play Wednesday to open their postseasons.

The winners of each game will play at 7 p.m. Friday on the higher seed’s home court.

The Hawks played at B-U (11-11) on Jan. 24 and left with a 70-42 win, but the Indians (13-9) gave UHS a much-stiffer test just two weeks ago at home — a 47-43 Hawks’ road win on Feb. 6.

“Bridgeport has Gabby (Reep) and she’s always going to get hers,” Lusk said. “You have to take care of her with Bridgeport, and Buckhannon is always a solid team. They do a real nice job down there. They’re a good team and it’s always a tough section, so we just have to take it one game at a time.”
The last time the Hawks went to the state tournament was 2020, losing the state semifinals just before high school sports were put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simpson has yet to play in Charleston for states, so she is ready to make a statement.

“Everyone’s been working so hard this season and we’ve really come together as a team,” she said. “Everyone wants this so bad, so to get to states and maybe have a chance at winning is our overall goal and I think we’re all really excited to get there.”

Tip-off between the Hawks and Preston is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at UHS.


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