— By Sean Manning
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown High coach Dave Tallman joked that he was asked 15 times about Kennedy Catholic big man Oscar Tshiebwe, but not much was mentioned about his unbeaten Mohigans during the American Homes Classic at MHS.
The Golden Eagles are one of the best private Catholic schools in Pennsylvania, and Tallman knew it would be a grueling challenge for his team. Kennedy Catholic has three Division I recruits, including the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Tshiebwe, who signed with West Virginia in November.
After opening with a 49-39 win over Class AA No. 4 Logan on Friday night, the Mohigans used this showcase to build momentum heading into the new year by facing some of the best competition they could, even in a 57-40 loss to Kennedy Catholic on Saturday night.
“We got better tonight,” Tallman said. “I found out a lot about our team — what we need to get better at and what we need to work on. This was definitely better than going out there and beating somebody by 50.
“It was a great crowd with a lot of excitement and it was very healthy for our program.”
In front of a packed Rowdy Center, MHS took its best shot and didn’t seem intimidated by the size and length of the Golden Eagles. In the first quarter, 3s were falling for the Mohigans, led by Garrett Haines and Alex Rudy.
At the end of the first frame, MHS only trailed by one, but the shots began to fall short as the second quarter began and the offensive woes continued into the second half.
The Mohigans were outscored the rest of the way, and with the presence of Tshiebwe and other bigs, like 6-foot-9 Michael Moore and 6-foot-7 Helon Amos, Kennedy Catholic forced MHS to shoot outside shots, which didn’t fall.
The Mohigans went 6-of-21 from 3 and only shot eight free throws.
“They forced us to shoot a bunch of 3s and when you go into guys like Oscar, you aren’t planning to have much success in the paint,” Tallman said. “We hit them early but then we went ice cold. If you make just half of those 21 3s, you’re probably in the game and it’s a battle. We’ve got to get better at shooting the ball and at the foul line, but I thought we played hard.”
Haines, who was second for MHS in scoring with 11 points, thinks playing teams the caliber of Kennedy Catholic will certainly help his squad down the line.
“It definitely gets us ready — we didn’t want to play some crap team, we always want to play the best teams to get us ready,” he said. “Playing teams that good will definitely get us ready to play other good teams down the line.”
Cam Selders was the leading scorer for the Mohigans, finishing with 12 points. Rudy was third, finishing with nine points.
For Kennedy Catholic, Tshiebwe led all scorers with 25 points, while Duquesne commit Maceo Austin tacked on 18.
Things don’t get any easier for MHS. It heads to Disney World next week for the Disney KBA Tournament, where the Mohigans will again face Division I caliber talent.
When they return to West Virginia, they will travel to Parkersburg South before hosting University.
“I don’t like losing, but this will help us down the line,” Tallman said. “I’m proud of the way the guys fought.”
MHS recognized former Mohigan and WVU basketball player Nathan Adrian at halftime by retiring his No. 33.
Adrian played for MHS from 2009-’13 and acclimated himself as a big man before signing with the Mountaineers. At West Virginia, he helped the team to two Sweet 16 appearances in 2015 and 2017.