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In-season growth has Hawks confident entering postseason play

MORGANTOWN — At the start of this season, there weren’t many who believed that the University High boys’ basketball team was going to amount to very much — with reasonable logic behind the assumption. 

After all, they no longer had their Triplet Towers prowling the baseline and in fact, had almost no varsity experience or scoring coming back. So, when the Hawks had posted a 6-8 record through most of January, all that pessimism seemed to be revealed as reality, except where it mattered most — the Hawks’ dressing room. 

Suddenly, University found its groove, started winning, and didn’t stop, ripping off an impressive seven-game streak that ended on their final game of the season at Hurricane on Friday — and it took a buzzer-beater three-pointer to do it. 

Okay, so what turned the Hawks around? 

According to UHS coach Joe Schmidle, it was nothing special — and very special. 

“Faith and hard work and love,” he smiled. “These kids never quit on each other. They believed in our team, the coaches, and the system, and they kept battling to get better. It takes real mental toughness to stick with it when things aren’t going well, and I’m just so happy that all their dedication and commitment and sweat is producing results on the court.” 

A major part of the maturation process resulted from players finding their comfort zone within Schmidle’s motion offense, a system that he used to produce a state championship back in 2019. 

“We went back to what we’ve always run,” he explained, “but it takes a while for everyone to learn their responsibilities and the timing of things — the attention to detail. But once we get rolling, it’s very difficult to defend against it, and it really wears teams down. And since we routinely go 10 deep — we’ve had 10 different starters this year — every player knows they can give maximum effort every second they’re out there. 

“And since everyone is contributing,” he continued, “it has really brought us together as a team. These guys care about each other, and it manifests itself when they support from the bench, especially with the way they constantly look for that extra pass. Not every group finds that chemistry, and you cannot create it. It has to come naturally, and we have it. It’s a beautiful thing.” 

As the 13-9 Hawks prepare to host Buckhannon-Upshur (a team they beat 68-48 in the first game of the season) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the first game of the Sectional Tournament, UHS is well aware that the real season — and the real fun — is just beginning. 

“It’s been gratifying for sure,” Schmidle said, considering the growth of his team, “but we know we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We will have to raise our level, play harder, tougher, more physical. We just know that we are hitting our stride, and want a chance to keep getting better. It’s a lot of fun when you know you’re playing good ball, and this group just wants to keep playing.”  


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