CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senior guard Anthony Spatafore has been Bridgeport’s primary scorer throughout the season, and it was his buzzer-beating bucket that sent the Indians to a regional win over Wheeling Park and spot in the state tournament.
As the No. 8 seed, the Indians faced a tough task against defending state champion and No. 1 Morgantown in Tuesday’s Class AAAA quarterfinal.
The Mohigans figured they could make things even tougher by limiting Spatafore’s production, and thanks in large part to Cam Danser’s defensive effort, they did just that.
Spatafore was held to 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting and the Mohigans made it difficult on Bridgeport throughout, never trailing in a 64-39 victory.
“Our defense was really impressive tonight. Sometimes when you’re here, you don’t shoot it great for a quarter or a half, so we needed to make sure we created offense out of our defense, and we did a great job,” MHS head coach Dave Tallman said. “We go 1 for 11 in the first half from three and we still had a big lead [33-18]. That was nice.”
The result sends Morgantown (24-2) into a semifinal Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s nightcap between No. 4 Huntington/No. 5 South Charleston.
MHS set the tone with its defensive play, holding the Indians (18-8) to 4-of-13 shooting and without a three-pointer on three attempts in the opening period. The Mohigans led 15-8 after one quarter and continued to rely on strong defensive play in the second period to expand the advantage.
“Morgantown, defensively, took it to us. We all knew about them,” BHS head coach Dave Marshall said. “They’re extremely well-coached and they have athletes up and down the lineup and size. They took us out of anything we wanted to do.”
Brody Davis scored the first two buckets of the second frame to give Morgantown its first double-digit lead, although the Tribe’s Rowen Michaelis countered with a triple. After Garrison Kisner scored inside twice, including one dunk, the Mohigans led 23-11.
The Indians continued to hang within striking distance and were behind 27-18 following an Ashton Curry jumper 2:38 before halftime.
However, starting with guard Sha-Ron Young’s layup 11 seconds later, the Mohigans ran off the final six points of the half and went to the break leading 33-18 after Danser’s layup at the 1:44 mark provided the final points.
The Mohigans had only four first-half turnovers to Bridgeport’s eight, and limited Spatafore to two points on 1-for-8 shooting.
“Cam Danser did an amazing job on Spatafore,” Tallman said. “He’s a great player. When he went out, Izzy Everett did a good job on him. He’s a guy we were really keying on.”
Bridgeport got its deficit inside 15 once during the third quarter — on a Spatafore 3 at the 5:16 mark that cut the MHS advantage to 37-23.
Over the final 4:51 of the period, however, the Mohigans outscored BHS, 13-4. That stretch began with a Davis trey, and after two free throws from Young, Davis scored inside. One free throw from Koma Neal, an Everett jumper and the first of two Jay Shrewsbury’s threes enabled Morgantown to lead 50-27 entering the fourth.
Davis led all players with 20 points and made 7-of-12 shots to go with seven rebounds and three blocks. He scored 10 points in both halves, but made 4-of-5 field-goal attempts after halftime.
“All my coaches said stop hesitating and shoot the ball,” Davis said, “and in the second half I stopped hesitating and was shooting the ball.”
Young, who missed eight straight games with a broken finger, including a 70-66 victory over Bridgeport last month, was back in the lineup for a second straight contest and made his usual impact. The junior scored 12 points to go with seven boards and five assists.
“It felt good to be out there. My teammates have been picking me up,” Young said.
“I was more concerned about his defensive presence,” Marshall said of Young. “He’s such an athlete, plays so hard and he’s so smart. It makes it harder to get into your offense. I told him after the game it was good to see him back, but I wish he’d have waited one more.”
Everett added nine points, Kisner scored eight and Danser contributed six with three blocks and three steals.
Spatafore’s 12 points were a team-high. Curry, with six, was the team’s second-leading scorer.
“I’ve wanted to play here my whole life. I don’t like the way it ended and I didn’t play very well, but to be able to finish my senior year here is special,” Spatafore said.
MHS won the battle of the boards 35-28, limited Bridgeport to two fast break points and made 20-of-31 two-point field goals.
“We were spoiled last year with the group we had and this group is more of the same,” Tallman said. “Nobody cares who scores. It’s hard to game plan for us because we have so many weapons. We share the rock like crazy. Our guys are more open now that Sha-Ron is back. We have a really good team and unit. I hope we can win a couple more.”
(Morgantown postgame press conference)