MHS survives stalling tactics

For The Dominion Post

What would you do?
Your John Marshall Monarchs boys’ basketball team is set to play in the Region 1, Section 1 semifinals on the road against Morgantown, the same team that beat you in that very same gym earlier in the year by 38 points. Yes, 38 points.
You know that the Mohigans are bigger, quicker and more athletic, but you have a disciplined team that plays well together and can get after it defensively.
If you are Monarchs coach Bill Storm, you decide your team’s best chance to win is by slowing the pace on offense to a crawl, running back-cuts until the defenders’ tongues drag and trying to hang around until the end.
It worked for almost three quarters, but Morgantown was just too strong, pulling away in the final quarter to win, 49-38.
It was exactly what Morgantown coach Tom Yester said he would have done had his team been in a similar situation.
“It was a sound strategy,” he agreed. “Limit our touches, make us chase on defense, get to the foul line if you can and see what happens. They did a pretty good job of executing in the first half, no doubt.”
John Marshall (15-8, with five of those losses against top-ranked Wheeling Park and Morgantown) ran the high weave on the perimeter all night and simply did not settle for hurried, low-percentage shots, which enabled them to limit the high-powered Morgantown offense to 23 first-half points.
The fact that the Monarchs managed to hit only four field goals was mitigated by their ability to get to the foul line, where they shot 8-for-11. The third quarter was brutal offensively for both teams, although the defensive intensity was skyhigh, especially from the Mohigans (20-3).
Still, with JMHS not shooting and MHS unable to knock down shots, the two teams scored a total of just six points in the first six minutes of the quarter, and only 12 total.
But Mohigans senior guard Carlton Drake forced a pair of quick turnovers late in the third, both of which were converted into baskets, and by the time Morgantown’s 11-4 run was finally stopped with three minutes left in the game, the lead was up to 14 points.
The Monarchs clawed back to get the deficit down to single digits with 20 seconds left, but MHS guard Sam Lusk capped a solid allaround game by burying a pair of free throws. Lusk finished with a dozen points for the Mohigans, who were led once again by Taylor Price’s smooth inside game that netted 14 points and six rebounds.
Scrappy senior guard Logan Martin led JMHS with 14 points.
After the game, Storm was eager to commend his team’s effort this season.
“You can’t praise a team more than to say that they have gone as far as they could with their ability,” he said, “and that’s how I feel about this group of kids. They had great chemistry, played hard for each other, and overall it was a great year for us. We’re in a tough region, and it wasn’t quite good enough to take us where we wanted to go, but I’m real proud of them.”
The Mohigans travel to Wheeling Park for the sectional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday, to face the team that narrowly defeated them at home, 54-52, on Saturday. Yester was quick to respond when asked what his team needed to grab that state tournament bid.
“Mental toughness,” he stated matter-of-factly. “There’s not much that separates these two teams. Their place will be loud, just like it was here on Saturday, so we have to be ready to face that adversity on the road. They are a terrific group of athletes, and we will have to be terrific as well to beat them.”
Get ready for Round 2 Friday, in Wheeling.
Lu. Martin 1 0-0 3, Lo. Martin 5 2-2 14, Wade 1 1-2 3, Carnahan 1 2-4 4, Clutter 1 3-4 5, Lavenski 2 4-4 8, Hummel 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 13-18 38.
Berryhill 0 1-2 1, Lusk 4 3-4 12, Watson 1 0-0 3, Keffer 2 0-0 4, Drake 2 0-0 4, Adrian 4 1-7 9, Blemings 1 0-0 2, Taylor Price 7 0-1 14. Totals 21 5-14 49. John Marshall 10 8 4 16 — 38 Morgantown 13 10 8 18 — 49
3-point goals: John Marshall 3 (Logan Martin 2, Luke Martin), Morgantown 2 (Lusk, Watson).

Ron Rittenhouse/The Dominion Post
Morgantown High’s Sam Lusk (right)
goes up for a first-half bucket as David Hummel III (55), of John Marshall, defends.