Mohigans’ goal: ‘Make history’

Yester’s teams have yet to win a state crown

BY ERIC HANLON The Dominion Post

Morgantown High School has had success through the years in virtually every sport, but a state championship always seems to elude the boys’ basketball team.
Not that the Mohigans are strangers to the state tournament. According to MHS head coach Tom Yester, this will be his 12th trip to the eight-team tournament in Charleston with the Mohigans.
During those 12 trips, MHS has never made the final.
With any luck, that could change soon. This year, a confident MHS group could have its best opportunity to make the title game in recent history.
“In past years, I think the Morgantown teams haven’t believed in themselves,” MHS senior Ryan Parsons said. “That’s something we definitely do. We believe. Our motto is ‘Make history,’ which is something we’re really trying to do.”
In fact, the idea going in is that there really are no favorites.
“I think these are pretty good teams in this bracket. The top two teams in each region got in, I think, so this is going to be a really good tournament,” MHS senior Jordan Barnett said. “I think everyone down there [Charleston, site of the state tourney] has beat everyone. We beat Logan, Logan beat Wheeling Park and Wheeling Park beat us. Anyone could win it.”
Sure, a few of the higher-seeded teams may have a slight edge, but in reality, this tournament boasts parity.
“I’d say it’s Logan, Wheeling Park and then George Washington. That’s your top three seeds right there,” said Yester, whose Mohigans drew the fifth seed. “But [No. 4] Capital is right there too. I probably would’ve put us at No. 4, to tell you the truth, but fourfive, what’s the difference? There isn’t any, really.
“I’ve seen just about every team down there,” he said. “Don’t be fooled, [No. 7] Martinsburg won it last year and they’re still as athletic as can be, [No. 8] Hedgesville has some really, really good guys, [No. 6] South Charleston has one of the top three guys in the state, and Wheeling Park, I think Wheeling Park has two of the top three players in the state.”
If anything, that is where the differences lies between MHS and the rest of the state tournament field. While most of the tourney’s teams are led by big-time, prolific scorers, MHS is not.
“My candid opinion is, it takes players to win the tourney,” Yester said. “Does it take a certain system and certain amount of coaching to help you? Yes. But, the players win it. We don’t have any one superstar talent. Hopefully, our depth will help neutralize some of that talent.”
What MHS does have is a whole team that contributes — and not just the top five or six players, but all who occupy a roster spot.
“I think it’s an advantage because we have an allaround team,” Barnett said. “Sometimes a team that has only one or two guys, those guys have to come out. We don’t have that problem. I think we have one of the strongest benches in the tournament.”
That’s not to say the Mohigans don’t have anyone who can take over a game. Barnett, Parsons and fellow senior Sam Runner all have that ability, but don’t expect to see a one-man show by any of the three in Charleston.
“We’ll keep playing the way we play,” Parsons said. “We’re 19-4 the way we are now, so we’ve got to keep playing the way we do. We’re not going to change now. We play as a team.”
As far as the Mohigans’ path to the state title game goes, the players couldn’t be happier.
MHS opens with Capital, on Thursday, then would most likely play topseeded Logan — which MHS has beaten this year — in the semifinals.
The only place MHS can meet up with Wheeling Park, which dealt the Mohigans two of their four losses, would be in the title game.
“Our seeding is pretty good because we already beat Logan and we know how to play against them, so we’re more confident, compared to if we were in the same bracket as Wheeling Park, which we haven’t beaten,” Barnett said.
Morgantown will begin its run for the state title at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, at the Charleston Civic Center.

Jason DeProspero/The Dominion Post file photo Morgantown High plays Capital on Thursday, in the first round of the state tourney.

Jason DeProspero/The Dominion Post MHS coach Tom Yester