Yester gets the most out of surprising Mohigans
Guides small team just short of the state final

Jason DeProspero/The Dominion Post

Tom Yester


The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON -- How surprising was the Morgantown High boys' basketball team?

The Mohigans even surpassed the expectations of head coach Tom Yester.

"I thought we would have a good season," Yester said. "A good season is 15 wins. I saw how hard the kids worked in the off-season in the weight room and over the summer on the court."

The Mohigans did have a "good" season by reaching 15 victories -- with four games remaining in the regular season. They won those four games as well.

"The four seniors on this team really stepped up all season," Yester said. "They held this team together and wouldn't let it quit, not for one second."

The Mohigans went on to win the Class AAA Region III title and advance to the semifinals of the state basketball tournament for the first time since 1987.

Along the way, Yester coached a run-and-gun style of play that brought excitement back into the program and saw Nick Hedges, Bobby Prim, Justin Vidovich and Ronnie Shaver all average in double figures in scoring.

For his efforts, Yester is The Dominion Post's Coach of the Year.

The Mohigans, predicted to finish around .500 at the start of the season, wound up 22-4 and had a 14-game winning streak before falling to Cabell Midland, 52-51, in the state semifinals on Friday.

"There really were no losers, not on this team," Yester said. "We came up one point short tonight, but I'll vouch for any of these kids, they're all winners in my book."

The key to the Mohigans' season was not only incorporating a fast-tempo offense that averaged 71 points a game, but also keeping their traditional tough defensive schemes. On the season, MHS allowed teams to average just 52 points.

"I thought our bench was another key factor to our season," Yester said. "We had four starters average double figures, but when we brought guys off the bench, we didn't lose a whole lot."

Indeed. The bench averaged 14 points a game, with players such as Geremy Rodamer and Matt Simpson each topping 100 points for the year.

The most amazing thing of all was MHS's success while playing undersized against almost every opponent. The tallest player on the Mohigans stood 6-foot-3.

How did Yester pull it off?

"It was just a matter of getting the kids to believe in themselves and to believe in the system they were playing in," Yester said. "These kids were just a great bunch to work with. I never had to worry about these kids going off and getting in trouble. They're great kids and good students. They did everything together and worked and played together as a team."

And Yester brought it all together for a No. 1 ranking in the Metro News Power Index and a run at the state title.

"These kids just never gave up," he said. "There were times during the season where they were presented opportunities to fold up the tent and they never did. They had tremendous heart, which was their best quality."