Local Sports, Preston, Sports, University

High-energy 2nd half lifts University boys over rival Preston

KINGWOOD – When it comes to WV varsity basketball, energy and effort can be a difference maker.  

In the first half, the improving Preston boys team shook off their snow-day-induced rust and played with intensity and purpose to forge a 23-22 lead at the break at home against rival University. However, despite persistent shooting woes, the Hawks turned up their defensive intensity in an overwhelming third quarter to roar past the Knights and prevail, 73-49. 

The first quarter was dominated by UHS junior center Zach Demidovich in his first varsity start, as he worked the paint for 8 points, leading to a 14-9 Hawks lead. But the Knights rebounded in the second quarter, cleaning up their turnovers and on the defensive boards, and solid work from their own junior big man, Aaron White, helped PHS to slip ahead by a point at halftime. 

“I thought we did well in the first half, both in breaking their press, defending and especially rebounding,” Preston coach Bucky Forbes said. “But you just can’t come out flat against strong, up-tempo teams like University. You need 32 minutes of concentration and intensity to compete.”

At halftime, the Knights honored former cheerleader Allyson Chandler, who earned All-American status this past season as a Marshall cheerleader.

At the beginning of the second half, it was the Hawks who came out inspired as they simply overwhelmed the sluggish Knights. The UHS press — led by senior leader and “glue guy” John Coleman — was devastating, forcing 10 turnovers that led directly to easy lay-ins, and Preston wasn’t able to grind their way back into it. University blasted out with a 32-6 quarter to lead 54-29 after three and essentially put the game away.  

“Thank goodness our press was working tonight,” UHS coach Joe Schmidle smiled, shaking his head. “We hit exactly zero shots from outside the paint. Zero. We’re struggling with our shot as a team, and while we may not be an especially good shooting team, we are not that bad. But all we can do is keep shooting, keep getting the ball to Zach down low – he was really strong and purposeful tonight – and keep giving that kind of effort on defense. When we play hard like that, we can be pretty good.” 

Demidovich led all scorers with 32, including an impressive 10 trips to the line and 14-19 shooting from the charity stripe to go along with nine field goals. Coleman scored a solid 17, and Ethan Jackson chipped in 10 for UHS. Brier Rugg paced the Knights with 13, while White finished his effective night with a dozen points. 

“I liked our high-low offense at times,” Forbes said, “and I know we are a better team than we were last year. I hope the weather will allow us to get more time in the gym to work on things we need to improve. I like what I’ve seen from our kids. We’re getting full buy-in, and we’ll just keep working and getting better.”    

In the JV game, University took advantage of very balanced scoring to defeat Preston 90-37. Mason Kemper paced the Hawks with 12, while Coltin Myers led all scorers with 20 for the Knights. 

The Knights are off until the Thursday after Christmas when they travel to face Philip Barbour in a holiday tournament at Lincoln, while the Hawks travel to Charleston, SC for the Carolina Invitational Tournament next Thursday through Saturday. 


University 73, Preston 49
University  14    8   32   19  – 73
Preston         9  14    6    20 –  49
UNIVERSITY (3-2) — Ethan Jackson 4 2-3 10; KK Lewis 2 0-0 4; Luke Hudson 1 0-0 2; Zach Demidovich 9 14-19 32;  James Garbart 2 2-2 6; John Coleman 7 3-3 17; Coen Henderson 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 21-27 73. 
PRESTON (2-3) — Brier Rugg 4 3-3 13; Kaden Bachtel 2 0-2 4; Tristan Smith 1 3-6 6; Easton Hayes 2 0-0 5; Slaton Manko 2 0-0 5; Aaron White 5 2-4 12; Aiden Schmidl 1 0-0 2;  Chase Graham 0 2-2 2. Totals 17 10-17 49.
3-Pt. Goals – PHS 5 (Smith, Rugg 2, Hayes, Manko) 
Fouled Out – PHS Manko