CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The scoreboard shows top seed Morgantown defeated eighth-seeded Woodrow Wilson 69-56 in a Class AAAA quarterfinal Thursday at the Charleston Coliseum.
Although the Mohigans ended the Eagles’ season, both teams left the court winners while displaying no shortage of grace and class following Sunday’s shooting death of Woodrow Wilson junior Dwayne Richardson — an instrumental part of the Eagles qualifying for the state tournament.
“I don’t even really remember what happened in the game,” Morgantown coach Dave Tallman said. “Our thoughts were with Dwayne, his family and the Beckley community the whole night.”
Woodrow Wilson coach Ron Kidd, who left the decision up to his players whether they wanted to come to Charleston, was full of pride after the Eagles’ season ended with a 10-12 record.
“I can’t explain it. I’ve never been through anything like this,” Kidd said. “I’ve been around Woodrow Wilson for about thirty years and never been through anything like this.
“I’m just so proud of them for having the courage to want to come down here,” Kidd continued. “If they’d have said they didn’t want to come, then we wouldn’t have come. They saw how happy Dwayne was the last two weeks and they wanted to come down here and represent him.”
As for the game, the Mohigans (18-1) overcame a spirited effort from Woodrow Wilson, which closed the opening quarter on a 6-0 spurt to trail 15-12.
MHS got five points from Carson Poffenberger and four from Alec Poland as part of an 11-3 surge to start the second quarter for a 26-15 lead.
While the Eagles fought back to get to within 28-21, the Mohigans ended the half with a 9-3 spurt capped by the first of four Luke Bechtel three-pointers to lead 37-24 at halftime.
Poffenberger had 14 of his 15 points in the opening half and made all six of his field-goal attempts.
“It’s my senior year and my mindset is just do what I can to win whether it’s to rebound, get stops or score,” Poffenberger said.
WWHS got five points from Ben Gilliam during a 9-0 run to start the second half that cut the Mohigans’ lead to four.
“We realized we couldn’t keep playing like we were and we had to come out with a fresh start,” Gilliam said.
But MHS answered with seven unanswered points to regain its double-digit lead, which Bechtel helped maintain by making a triple with 26 seconds left in the third that helped the Mohigans lead 50-39 entering the fourth.
Bechtel had five points during a 7-2 MHS run to start the final period, helping up his team’s lead to 16.
“Carson was working for us and that’s why I started going,” Bechtel said. “When he caught the ball, they all ran toward him.”
Woodrow Wilson got no closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Bechtel, whose mother is a Beckley native, scored a team-high 18 points. Poland scored 11 on 5-of-6 shooting, while point guard Xavier Pryor had eight points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“When we push the ball, it’s dangerous,” Tallman said. “I don’t think we pushed it enough tonight. When get the ball in the paint and inside out, it’s going to be hard to guard us.”
The Mohigans shot 56 percent for the game and made 20-of-28 two-point attempts.
“We gave them a lot of open looks and you can’t give them open looks,” Kidd said. “They do a great job of running offense and they knock down their shots.”
Gilliam finished his decorated high school career with 18 points and eight rebounds, while freshman Elijah Redfern scored 16 points for the Eagles.
Richardon’s father sat on the bench with the Eagles and his family was present in the crowd.
“That was awesome,” Kidd said. “He had to be strong to do that. I don’t think I could’ve done it as a parent.“
After the game, Richardson’s father addressed Morgantown in the locker room.
“We’re going to try to win it for him,” Tallman said.