ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH – Unhappy with his team’s performance in the first quarter, University head coach Joe Schimdle decided to shake things up for the second quarter and turn to a defense the Hawks spend very little time on during practice, a match-up zone.
The change up worked and the top-ranked Hawks frustrated Morgantown’s offense for the rest of the night winning their first Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Championship 65-45.
“We had to completely change our game plan after the first quarter, we weren’t happy with the way things were going,” said Schmidle. “We’ve got to keep Nicky [Solomon] from penetrating to the daggone basket because that’s what makes them go.”
University did exactly what Schmidle wanted.
After switching to the zone defense, Solomon was unable to find lanes to the basket and finished the game with just eight points. Meanwhile, the Mohigans second-leading scorer, Torin Hanson was limited to just 11 points, seven of those coming in the first quarter.
No. 5 Morgantown took an 18-13 lead early in the second quarter, but from that point on, University cranked up the defensive intensity and took control of the game. The Hawks finished the half on a 12-3 run and took a 25-21 lead into the locker room.
“We settled down and saw what we could do and just kept going,” said Geoff Hamperian. “We were playing a zone defense with some man principles and they didn’t know what to do with it.”
The Hawks started the second half on an 8-0 run and built a 12-point lead at 33-21 before Morgantown made its first field goal of the second half, nearly four minutes into the third quarter.
Morgantown was able to trim the deficit down to five points at the start of the fourth quarter at 37-32 but the Mohigans unraveled in the final period.
After Solomon was called for a travel on a drive to the rim, Mohigans coach Dave Tallman was called for a double-technical foul while arguing the call. After Tallman’s ejection, the Hawks took control of the game.
“We were like, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing at that point,” Hamperian admitted.
What University was doing was preventing Morgantown from getting to the rim and when the Mohigans did get a shot, University was there for the rebound. After Morgantown took the 18-13 lead in the second quarter, University outscored the Mohigans 52-27 to end the game.
“This just feels great but we know we’ll see them again,” grinned Hamperian, who led all scorers with 17 points.
Ethan Ridgeway finished with 12 points shooting 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.
The Hawks, with a 19-2 overall record, are now assured the top seed for the sectionals while Morgantown drops to 16-5 and will likely be the second seed.