Surging Spartans take down No. 9 Morgantown

By Jim Workman
Register-Herald Sports Writer
One popular motivational quote says, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Greenbrier East must be buying into that line wholeheartedly.

After beginning the season 0-7, the unranked Spartans have won seven of their last nine games while stringing together four consecutive victories.

The winning streak continued with an impressive 62-59 win over Class AAA No. 9 Morgantown Saturday in a Big Atlantic Classic boys championship contest.

The Mohigans had just come off a victory over No. 2 Logan on Friday night, making the East accomplishment that much more impressive.

“I think we can play with anybody in West Virginia,” Greenbrier East coach Jerry Bradley said. “We can beat anybody in West Virginia. If people are looking at seedings, they better look at us.

“We’ve made a strong statement in these last four games. We’ve beaten Woodrow Wilson, St. Albans, Roanoke Catholic and Morgantown. It would be hard for someone to have a better week than we’ve had.

“But none of that matters unless you’re heading the right way to the tournament. This gives us a whole lot of confidence,” Bradley admitted.

Greenbrier East raised it record to 7-9, while Morgantown fell to 11-3.

Hayden Roberts led the Spartans with 22 points, 13 coming in the second half.

Senior guard Jalen Walker contributed 16 points, four assists and four steals. His 10 points in the third quarter sparked the Spartans, allowing East to overcome a 30-27 halftime deficit and go into the fourth with a 46-46 tie.

“Jalen stepped up on both ends of the floor,” Bradley said. “We’ve been wanting him to play like that. And Hayden really stepped up big. He got into foul trouble but played great. He’s played great all year. They’re two all-conference caliber guards.”

Andre Sinclair stepped up big for the Spartans, in need of a strong post enforcer on defense and an offensive contributor to counter Morgantown senior Sam Runner.

Runner, a 6-4 senior, had a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds, but was limited to two baskets in the final period, one coming at the buzzer after the game had already been decided.

“Andre really helped us, giving us an inside presence,” Bradley said. “He gave us a couple of stickbacks when we really needed it, too. Runner was dominating us, but Andre took him out down the stretch and had a couple of big buckets himself.”

“We did all that we could do,” Morgantown coach Tom Yester said. “We just came up short. It was like a state tournament week for us: We played (No. 7) Preston on Wednesday, Logan on Friday and this championship game on Saturday. But we’ll use this experience to our advantage.

“Their guard play was a good bit better than ours,” Yester admitted. And we didn’t get the scoring that we usually get from our other post players.”

“It was a classic matchup,” Bradley added. “They couldn’t handle our little guys and we had trouble handling their big guys. They’re a solid team. It’s a good win. It was a total team victory. That’s what I’m proud of.”

East used a risky coaching move to motivate its starting five in the first quarter. After three lackadaisical minutes, Bradley sent five subs to the scorer’s table to substitute.

After sitting out about three minutes, the starting five went back on the floor — this time with fire in their eyes.

“(Assistant) coach (Bimbo) Coles usually likes to initiate that,” Bradley said. “That’s because we were standing around. That cost us a lot of games early in the year. We weren’t playing the way we have to play. It was about sending a message to our guys.”

Greenbrier East will travel to Princeton on Monday and host AAA No. 1 George Washington on Wednesday.

— E-mail:

Greenbrier East 62, Morgantown 59

Morgantown (11-3)

Evan Berryhill 2 0-0 4, Jordan Barnett 2 3-3 7, Ryan Parsons 3 2-3 8, Sam Runner 9 7-10 25, Nathan Colombo 1 2-4 4, Michael Keffer 1 0-0 2, Taylor Price 4 1-2 9. Totals: 22 15-22 59.

Greenbrier East (7-9)

Travis Butts 1 0-0 3, Jalen Walker 4 7-9 16, Andre Sinclair 4 2-2 10, Hayden Roberts 9 2-2 22, Hunter Roberts 1 0-0 3, Derek Ramsey 2 0-0 6, Mike McCormick 0 2-2 2. Totals: 21 13-15 62.

M 16 14 16 13 — 59

GE 7 20 19 16 — 62

Three-point goals: M: none; GE: 7 (Ha. Roberts 2, Ramsey, Butts, Walker, Hunter Roberts); Fouled out: GE: Ha. Roberts.