CHARLESTON, W.Va. – University made its first boys basketball state tournament appearance in 23 years on Wednesday, beating Martinsburg 58-46.
The No. 2 Hawks (24-2) set the tone early, jumping out to an 18-4 lead after the first quarter and 32-21 advantage at the half.
“I saw a lot of positives out there and I thought the kids played really hard, especially how undersized we were for almost the whole game,” said University coach Joe Schmidle. “I honestly think this might have been the worst game that we’ve played all year. To be sitting here with a win, the way we played, we’re really fortunate.”
University 6-foot-4 senior Geoff Hamperian battled through foul trouble in the second quarter and eventually fouled out in the second half with eight points and only 13 minutes played.
“(Geoff) Hamperian was in the game (during the 18-4 first quarter) for one,” Joe Schmidle said. “That makes a big difference. He’s a big part of what we do offensively and defensively, as well as being a presence on the inside. When he came out of the game, we slowed it down a little bit – but a lot of kids stepped up tonight and did a great job.”
Freshman Kaden Metheny and junior Austin Forbes led the Hawks with 14 points apiece in the win. Ethan Ridgeway added 11 points for the Hawks as well. Forbes hit 6 of 13 shots, including 2 of 5 from 3.
“Someone needed to step up to make a basket (with Hamperian out) and we were struggling to make a basket,” Forbes said. “I was just there at the right time and got an open shot.”
No. 7 Martinsburg (17-9) made a 9-2 run in the fourth quarter, closing its deficit to 49-44 with 1:27 to go.
“I don’t think that there is any question that we dug ourselves a hole,” said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers. “I thought our kids played extremely hard and battled. Shooting 2 for 19 from 3 didn’t help, but (University’s) zone did a good job. We came back after that first quarter fairly level.”
University scored 27 points off of 28 forced turnovers and closed out the game on a 9-2 run.
“(My mindset was) to just take care of the ball,” Metheny said of the game’s final minutes. “No turnovers, work the offense, the only shot if we can score is a layup – no stupid shots.”
Martinsburg, which doesn’t have a senior on the roster, was led by Corey Barnett’s 22 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
University has never won a boys basketball state championship.
“It’s just another game for us,” Forbes said. “We don’t look at it like it’s a state tournament game. It’s one more game and we have two more left.”
University moves on to face either Huntington or Musselman at 9 p.m. in the semifinals on Friday.