Sports in The Dominion Post

This article appeared in the Dominion Post Newspaper on March 7, 2003.
MHS's Benson warms up once the game starts


Often times, coaches have this thing about watching the other team's best shooters during pregame warmups.

If the top shooters are hitting during warmups, the coaches will issue a warning to their players. If the shooters aren't finding the mark, perhaps they can instruct their players to back off and cheat inside.

That's the theory, anyway.

Of course, had University High's coaches judged Morgantown High forward Tyler Benson on his pregame shooting Thursday night, at MHS gym, they would have backed their players off into Marion County.

Benson couldn't buy a basket in pregame warmups.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "Everything was in and out."

Then the game started.

The 6-foot-4 junior fired up his first 3-pointer four minutes into the contest -- swish.

His next 3?

Nothing but net.

All of a sudden, Benson's pregame woes seemed laughable. The guy was on fire. By the time the evening's festivities were complete and MHS had advanced with a 67-41 victory over its city rival, Benson's statistics were downright sparkling: six 3s and a game-high 25 points.

"My first one, I could tell," Benson said. "It just felt right. After that, I wasn't even thinking about it. The basket was like twice the size for me tonight."

As UHS coach Bruce Clinton said afterward: "Benson just shot the lights out."

The scary thing is this: It wasn't even Benson's best night shooting the basketball this season.

No, he finished with a season-best 30 points and nailed eight 3-pointers in a game at Brooke.

"He can shoot well just about any time," MHS coach Tom Yester said. "He had 51 3s coming into tonight. It doesn't surprise me. He was pumped. He was ready. He was relaxed, and his teammates found him. I think Benson has that kind of stroke. I think he's better farther out."

What really tickled Yester about Benson's performance Thursday was the way Benson mixed up his offensive arsenal, keeping UHS's defenders off balance.

"After he made three 3s, he drove and got a layup," Yester said. "He had two layups on drives tonight, and he also hit two pull-ups. When he mixes his game up, shoots a few intermediate shots and takes it to the basket every once in a while, he's pretty effective."

If Benson can stay hot in the regional final, against a yet-to-be-determined foe, on March 11, at the Wheeling Civic Center, the Mohigans make hotel reservations in Charleston and maybe even clear out some space in an already-crowed trophy case.

It's a win-win situation for MHS.

If Benson is unconscious from long range, the Mohigans reap the benefits.

If Benson makes a few 3s and draws the defense out, he can dump the ball inside to the likes of Seth Fogarty or Ben Torsney.

"Earlier in the year, we got a triangle-and-two on me and Kameron (Law), and Fogarty just took over the game," Benson said. "We have an option for anything people throw on us. If they come out on us, we'll dump it into (Matt) Simpson, Torsney and all of those guys."

Some players would be offended at the notion of being deployed as a decoy.

Not Benson.

"I'm happy if I can make myself a decoy," he said. "If my teammates drive and kick the ball out and I'm spotting up, I can just shoot it. If Geremy (Rodamer) and Seth and Chad (Murray) are going to the basket, let 'em go."

And then watch how far MHS goes this month.