CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although Class AAA No. 2 University posted a relatively comfortable win against Musselman in Wednesday’s quarterfinal, Hawks’ coach Joe Schmidle wasn’t particularly pleased with his team’s performance.
After Friday’s 71-52 victory over No. 6 Cabell Midland — in which Kaden Metheny finished with 29 points, five assists and five steals — Schmidle was much more optimistic.
“As much as I didn’t think we played well Wednesday, we played more like ourselves tonight,” Schmidle said. “The intensity and toughness was there. We played at a much faster pace and our aggressiveness in the press was the difference in the game.”
The victory sent UHS (23-4) to clash with unbeaten and No. 1 Martinsburg in Saturday’s AAA title game at 7:15 p.m.
After scoring all 15 of his points in the first half of the win over Musselman, Metheny got going early against the Knights.
Metheny scored seven points in the first quarter to stake University to a 13-5 lead, though Cabell Midland (19-8) closed the deficit to 15-11 ahead of the start of the second.
The Knights were down 21-16 halfway through the second quarter when Metheny put together his finest stretch of the game. The junior scored 12 points over the final 3:38 of the half, making five field goals and a pair of free throws to help the Hawks take a 36-18 lead into the intermission.
“That wasn’t one of our better games, but a lot of times your opponent has a lot to do with that,” Cabell Midland coach Rick Chaffin said. “They put pressure on us and we didn’t get into a flow. Our offense is predicated on setting picks and freeing guys up and University jumped out to that lead and it kind of snowballed.”
Metheny poured in 19 first-half points to outscore the Knights himself, while K.J. McClurg added 10 points.
UHS made 14-of-22 two-point field goals in the first two periods.
“I knew coming into this game we had to get over this hump and we hadn’t done that before,” Metheny said. “I definitely had an extra pep in my step. It’s definitely motivation coming into this tournament and we have one more to go.”
The University lead was at 39-23 two minutes into the third quarter, when the Knights put together a 6-0 run that featured two buckets from Tyler Straub and one from Chandler Schmidt.
Schmidle called timeout with his team leading by 10 at the 5:05 mark of the third and got the immediate response he was seeking.
Ryan Niceler scored four straight points to take the momentum away from Cabell Midland, and Mike Maumbe, McClurg and Metheny each made shots in a span of 1:26 to stretch the lead to 20.
The Hawks appeared to have more energy than the Knights as the game progressed, perhaps in large part to UHS playing its quarterfinal Wednesday morning and Cabell Midland winning its quarterfinal in overtime Thursday night.
“It seemed they had more pep to their step last night,” Schmidle said. “But I’ve seen a lot of people tried to guard Kaden and K.J., and they’ll make you tired. It was defintely an advantage to have that day off and be the two seed.”
Metheny ended the third-quarter scoring with a triple that made it 56-35, and the Hawks led by at least 14 throughout the fourth quarter.
McClurg added 18 points in the win and Rodney Bucklew gave UHS a third double-figure scorer with 11.
University finished with 46 points in the paint, although its starting five scored all 71 points.
Jake Edwards led CM with 15 points, while Jaron Womack and Schmidt added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
“We were prepared. We knew their personnel,” Chaffin said. “It’s a matter of being able to stop what they were doing. And their execution was really good. I think I did my job preparation wise and our kids did too, it’s just that University was much better.”