By Joe Smith, The Dominion Post, for WVMetroNews.com
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sometimes you can’t just get a shot to fall.
No. 7 Morgantown (16-8) learned that in a tough way against host No. 1 University (23-1) during Friday night’s WVSSAC Class AAA Region 1 Section 2 boys basketball final.
Both teams ended the regular season ranked in the top 10 among AAA teams out of the MetroNews Power Index.
MHS struggled to hit crucial foul shots down the stretch, going just 7-of-13 from the stripe. The missed opportunities would prove a difference maker as UHS secured a tight 58-55 victory over its city rival.
“The thing that has plagued them all year is missed free throws, and they made them early but when it got down to the end of the game, they missed their free throws,” UHS head coach Joe Schmidle said. “I thought that was very crucial, and the outcome of the game could have been a lot different.”
MHS athletic director John Bowers, filling in for absent head coach Dave Tallman, also attributed his squad’s rebounding woes to the loss. The undersized Hawks crashed the glass with vigor from buzzer to buzzer, earning shot opportunities that helped create scoring opportunities.
“In the second half and at the end of the first half they really killed us on the offensive glass,” Bowers said. “They would get three or four shots at a time. That wore us down and increased our foul totals.”
MHS still proved a valiant opponent, jumping out to a 10-4 lead, and trailing by just five at halftime before a 22-point third quarter brought them back within a possession.
“We were down and we had the ability to come back. We never gave up, we kept playing hard and we hit some big shots,” Bowers said. “My heart goes out for those young kids who played so hard. The kids in blue really battled, and it was a great high school basketball game.”
It was at the end of the fourth quarter, though, where the more disciplined team rose to the occasion. UHS ran its offense exceptionally well, discombobulating one of the toughest defenses in the state to gain a slight advantage as time ran down.
MHS stayed within a shot’s reach, but couldn’t put away its shots when it mattered.
“I didn’t know what the outcome of that game would be, and I knew it would go down to the wire. They’re rolling; they’re such a tough, physical team, and they’re so good on defense,” Schmidle said. “I don’t know how many opportunities they had to score in the last minute, but it was too many for me.”
MHS junior guard Cam Selders proved a spark for his team, pouring in 23 points and stepping up to put away big shots in the clutch.
“We played hard. We didn’t have our coaches, but we played as hard as we could and left it all out there,” Selders said of the performance. “It just wasn’t enough.”
Opposite of Selders was UHS senior guard Ethan Ridgeway, who paced the Hawks with 18 points.
Both teams will advance to the Region 1 finals. UHS will host Section 2 runner-up John Marshall, while Morgantown will travel to Section 1 champion Wheeling Park. Both games are scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off Tuesday.
Region 1, Section 1: (1) Wheeling Park, (2) John Marshall,
Wednesday: John Marshall 53, Brooke 30 — Brooke eliminated
Friday: Wheeling Park 42, John Marshall 38
WHEELING PARK WINS AAA REGION 1, SECTION 1
Region 1, Section 2: (1) University, (2) Morgantown,
(3) Buckhannon-Upshur, (4) Preston
Wednesday: University 104, Preston 57 — Preston eliminated
Wednesday: Morgantown 83, Buckhannon-Upshur 58 — Buckhannon-Upshur eliminated
Friday: University 58, Morgantown 55