Nothing-to-lose MHS can’t wait to get to state

High’s boys’ basketball team down I-79 to Charleston and the state tournament next week will have an easier time of it this year.
    The load will be much lighter.
    It’s not that fewer players and staff members are making the trip, and it has nothing to do with the equipment, either.
    No, the “load” we’re talking about is one of expectations.
    Coach Tom Yester’s Mohigans entered the 2004 Class AAA event as the No. 1 seed, and 99 percent of the time the top seed is expected to win the tournament.
    Didn’t happen for MHS.
    The Mohigans got off to a wretched start against fourthseeded Huntington High and were bounced out of the tournament, 63-52.
    Whether the burden of those higher expectations led to MHS’s unceremonious ouster in its first game of the tournament is subject to debate, but this much is clear:
    MHS (19-5) won’t be the top seed this year, and the Mohigans players don’t mind a bit.
    That was one of the first things the players talked about as they celebrated on the court after their 74-65 Region I championship victory Tuesday, against Brooke’s Bruins, at Wheeling Jesuit University.
    “Last year, we were expected to win,” said Chris Carey, who scored 29 points in propelling the Mohigans’ win. “This year, we go down and play like we have nothing to lose.”
    The way Carey sees things, the Mohigans have been flying under the proverbial radar screen all season long.
    “I don’t think anyone gave us a chance to go to states this year with Wheeling Park and Brooke in the region and UHS getting a couple of players at the end of the year,” he said. “I think we were a little bit of an underdog.”
    The 2004 tournament marked MHS forward Marlan Robinson’s first state experience. Nobody is more excited about a return trip than Robinson. He calls playing in the tournament “a once in a lifetime experience.”
    While Robinson wouldn’t want to concede he was in awe of the surroundings and the atmosphere at the Charleston Civic Center a year ago, he does believe he’ll be more prepared to play his game this year.
    “Last year, we were just happy to be down there,” Robinson said. “This year, we want to go down there and win and compete, instead of getting blown out in the first round.”
    The players understand that advancing to the tournament isn’t enough anymore. The Mohigans have done that for four straight years and five of the past six.
    It’s all about winning in Charleston now, and the Mohigans do not lack that capability this year.
    MHS has two playmakers any school in the state would covet in Carey and Robinson. The two complement each other perfectly, and they teamed for 53 points in the win against Brooke.
    You can’t leave either player unguarded beyond the 3-point arc, and both players are capable of beating a defender off the dribble. The two are also excellent passers who will find open teammates.
    Still, the Mohigans are much more than those two. Jeff Lindsay, John Oliver and Quinn Law are solid players.
    Few teams have ever won a state championship without a reliable bench, and the Mohigans are strong in that area. Yester makes liberal use of his bench. Dusty Kerns, Andrew Dunn and John Hatfield could start for a lot of teams. Emil Siriwardane is a more than capable outside shooting threat.
    Yester credited the bench for its role in the outcome of the Brooke game.
    “We just got a little bit from everybody,” he said. “A good, deep bench helped us out a little bit.”
    If the Mohigans continue to receive more of the same from the reserves, next weekend could be one to remember.
TODD MURRAY covers college football for The Dominion Post. You can reach him at