Yester going for win No. 500

Preston, Trinity both return tons of experience

BY ERIC HANLON The Dominion Post

Year in and year out, the Morgantown High School boys’ basketball team is good. In fact, they’re usually really good, and one look at head coach Tom Yester’s career record is proof of that.
Entering this season, Coach Yester’s career record at MHS sits at 499-309, which means the Mohigans’ first victory this season will be the 500th for the long-time coach.
“I’m excited to win any game, but I don’t care much about my own achievements,” Yester said. “I’m not going to turn it down, but it just makes me think of all the great kids we’ve had over the years. It’s the kids, not me, and we’ve had a lot of good coaches too. The success shows the kids desire to learn and achieve. It’s been a good ride.”
With any luck, this season will also be a good one for the Mohigans. But, it won’t be easy as they will be without four of last season’s starters.
“It should be a pretty interesting season, Yester said. “Our kids are going to have some big shoes to fill. We have an unproven group that hasn’t played many opponents.”
“We’re going to have to work to rebound against some descent sized teams and it’s important that they do a better job of finishing quarters and halves.”
With that being said, there’s still room to feel good about this season for Mohigans fans as they will play solid defense, have great depth and boast plenty of athletes.
“I know the athleticism of these guys, and that should help us,” Yester said. “We’ll be playing with eight or nine guys and hopefully this group can shoot the ball well. But, we will be relying on defensive pressure and running the ball.
“Defense has to be our base, because offense can come and go. A lot of times you can make a play on defense more often than on offense and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
University High
Through the course of a season, some teams will be extremely dominant while others will struggle. But, in the end, does it really matter how a team fares during the regular season?
University High School boys’ head basketball coach Bruce Clinton isn’t so sure.
“I think of all of our whole season as practice games,” Clinton said. “We’ve won or shared the conference title the last two years, but Fairmont Senior has been the one representing this area in Charleston. I want to win every game we play, but it’s more important to win at the end of the season.
Adding to Clinton’s frustration may be that his team did so well during the first part of last season starting out the year 15-0 only to lose all five starters to injury and end the year with a record of 16-7.
“I expect big things from all our kids, but the end of last season was very disappointing,” said Clinton. “This year staying healthy is our number one goal.”
Of the injured is last season’s lone returning starter, Ryan Nehlen. But, just because the Hawks will only be returning one starter does not mean that they will be without experience.
“We should have about six returning letterman if my memory serves me,” Clinton said. “So we have some experience coming back and I think we’ll be OK. It will definitely be a very mature team because we will be playing with eight seniors and four juniors.”
Aside from staying healthy, another concern for UHS is their size, but they just may have all the tools needed to overcome that problem area.
“We need to rebound better and box out more because we aren’t very big,” Clinton said. “But, we did a good job limiting people to only one shot in our last scrimmage. Plus it helps that almost everyone on the floor for us has 3-point capability.”
This should be an exciting season for the Preston High School boys’ basketball team. While many teams in the state will be rebuilding and trying to find their identity, the Knights won’t have to do any of that.
Coming off of an 18-6 campaign that ended with the Knights as the Co-NCAC champions, the team will be returning many of their previous year’s main components.
Returning for PHS will be six seniors and all three of last year’s starting guards, which has made head coach Barry Sanders very happy.
“We should have a pretty good year,” Sanders said. “I have my guards back (seniors Major Myers, Steve Groves, and T.J. Thompson).
“We try to spread people out and create lanes for our shooters. Opposing teams will have problems helping out on defense against our guards because all three seniors are pretty good and all shoot pretty well.”
Those three guards will play an all too important role in the Knights’ season. But, Myers may play the most important role of all.
“I don’t think we’ll run up and down the court on people this year, we never have,” Sanders said. “But Myers controls the tempo pretty well. This is his fourth year as point guard for us and he is one of the best guards around, by far.”
It is undeniable that the Knights will be relying on their experienced guards to lead them this season, but it is hard to overlook one other “big” characteristic of this team. PHS will most likely have all five starters at or above six feet tall.
“I don’t think that the NCAC will be very big this year, and that should help us,” Sanders said.
Trinity Christian School has only had a boys’ varsity basketball team for six years. With the program still being in its infancy, it would be understandable to assume the team would be struggling.
But, the program has matured much faster than expected, and the Warriors have advanced to the regional championship game four straight years.
With the team’s success has come an abundance of confidence, and in reality, why shouldn’t the Warriors be confident?
Last year, Trinity finished the season 14-9 with a young team. This year, that group is a year older and more experienced.
“We played with a lot of sophomores last year,” head coach Herman Pierson said. “That inexperience showed itself at times last season. But the team has spent more time in the weight room and they have worked really hard in the offseason.”
What really excites the Warriors head coach is the depth that his team has this year.
“We’re going to be stronger and deeper than last year,” Pierson said. “This is a very interesting group because we could have eight starters and all eight could put up double digits on any given day. They can all shoot from the outside, and play with a lot of versatility. Plus I have three players that can play three different positions, so we shouldn’t ever get into foul trouble.
“I have 19 total players on the team this year, and not one I would consider a weak player.”
However, what will be the true tale of the season for the Warriors will be if they can play consistently at the same level.
“We’ve bounced in and out of the top 10 for the last four years now, and we’re not nearly as consistent as some of the better teams in the state like Wheeling Central, but we’re close,” Pierson said. “Our players just aren’t used to playing with each other yet, but I don’t expect it to take long. Once we get about four or five games under our belts we should be pretty tough.”
Another year older and another year wiser. For the Clay-Battelle boys’ basketball team, they are also hoping that familiar notion also includes another year improved.
Last season, the Cee-Bees finished the season 9-13 and flamed out early in the sectional playoffs.
This year C-B will be returning six letterman, three of which are seniors.
“At some point they all started last year,” C-B head coach Frank Skubis said. “On paper, experience should be our strength, but we haven’t been in battle yet so we’ll find out.
“The team has been progressing pretty well and we’re hoping experience will carry us. We’ve been trying to get a little better every day and we’re going to use that same approach in games.”
Of those experienced players, the Cee-Bees will potentially rely on senior Tyler Barnette the most.
“He will play Superman for us, which is all five positions,” Skubis said. “His strength is rebounding, but he also has some really good moves and can really take it to the rack.”
Also playing a big role for the Cee-Bees will be seniors Damone Eddy and Derrick Cole.
“We’re expecting some big rebounds from Damone (Eddy),” Skubis said. “He’s quick and can get off of the floor really well. And we’re going to be asking for Derrick (Cole) to score a lot for us.”
Potentially, this year’s Cee-Bees will be more competitive than some of the past teams. However, even with the team being more talented than in recent history they will need to prove themselves by being more fundamentally sound.
“We’ve been working hard on shot selection which is our biggest concern on offense,” Skubis said. “We have been emphasizing more on the defensive side of the ball, specifically giving an extra effort boxing out.”

The Dominion Post file photo Morgantown boys’ basketball coach Tom Yester will get his first crack at win No. 500 when the Mohigans host Preston on Wednesday.

Bob Gay/The Dominion Post Trinity High players work out during Monday’s practice. The Warriors’ first game is Friday, at Jefferson-Morgan (Pa.).