2 shots at first title 3/15/10

Warriors, Mohigans carry area’s hoops hopes

The Dominion Post

It has never been done. But two area schools hope to change that.
Since the WVSSAC broke the sport into three classifications, in 1959, none of the five area high schools — Morgantown, University, Preston, Clay-Battelle and Trinity — has won a state championship in boys’ basketball.
Clay-Battelle came the closest, in 1996, but lost in the Class A final, to Wheeling Central. St. Francis won the Class A state title in 1980, and lost the state title game in 1979, but no longer exists as a high school.
That’s it. No others have even made the finals.
Wednesday, when the state tournament begins, the area will have perhaps its best chance in years at winning its first title. Morgantown (22-3) is seeded No. 2 in Class AAA and Trinity Christian School is seeded No. 1 in Class A.
“You play them to win, you don’t play them to lose,” MHS head coach Tom Yester said. “Hopefully, this year we can get over the hump.”
First round opponent: Logan, 11:15 a.m.
The Mohigans routinely have strong teams and are no strangers to the state tournament. But for some reason, Morgantown always seems to get tripped up, often in the semifinals.
Most recently, Morgantown has lost to South Charleston, Cabell Midland and Brooke in the semis. In 2010, the Mohigans lost to Capital, in the opening round.
This year’s version, however, appears to be one of the better MHS teams to make the tournament. The Mohigans have won 11 of their past 12 games, including a split with top-seeded Wheeling Park (22-3).
There is some debate as to whether Morgantown, and not Wheeling Park, should have been the top seed at the tournament, considering the two split this season. MHS defeated Wheeling Park in the Region 1, Section 1 championship game. Wheeling Park beat MHS in the regular-season finale. The road teams won each contest.
Yester wasn’t concerned.
“Being a No. 2 seed is great. The only thing better would be a No. 1 seed,” he said. “But I don’t think too much about it. Wheeling Park has been in the finals two years in a row and I’m sure a lot of people remember that. We had a two-point loss and a two-point win against them, but the coaches vote and I’m sure at least some of that is based on a historical basis.”
Instead, Yester is focused on the task at hand — winning the firstround game, against Logan (15-10), the defending state champion.
“It certainly isn’t an easy draw,” Yester said. “They run, gun and shoot the 3, and defensively they use man-to-man, trap and a halfcourt zone. We have to be well prepared on a lot of fronts with them.
“Logan has two of the better players in the state in (6-foot-2 senior Deyonta) Coleman and (6-3 senior Herbert) Williamson,” he added. Ex-Mountaineer and 2010 Player of the Year “Noah Cottrill may be gone but the other guards are a year older and a year better. They’re definitely a threat.”
If the Mohigans do manage a win against the defending champs, things don’t get much easier.
“If we can get by Logan, then we get South Charleston or George Washington — whew!” Yester said. “We played South Charleston and they’re very good, and G.W. may even be a little better.”
According to Yester, the only tourney team the Mohigans haven’t faced in the past year — including the regular season, scrimmages and summer basketball — is fifthseeded Hedgesville (22-1).
Aside from South Charleston and Wheeling Park, Morgantown played fourth-seeded Woodrow Wilson (22-3) during the regular season. MHS lost that game.
First round opponent: Meadow Bridge, 5:30 p.m.
While it is debatable whether Morgantown should or should not have been seeded No. 1 or No. 2, there was never any doubt with the Warriors.
Despite having never won a game at the state tournament in school history and playing a difficult schedule, Trinity was ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season and showed no real signs of weakness.
“It’s rewarding. It makes you feel like the regular season does actually mean something,” head coach Herman Pierson said. “But I still feel at this stage that any team is dangerous. Yes, a No. 1 seed should give us a better opportunity, but it doesn’t mean we can just show up and win without the right effort.”
The only thing that realistically could get in the Warriors’ way is themselves. Pierson cautioned his team not to repeat the mistakes the past two state tourney teams (2008 and 2008) made. Both lost in the opening round.
“We are certainly entering this state tournament with a different mindset than we have in the past,” he said. “But it’s also the same in a lot of respects. We still have to take it one step at a time and one game at a time. Funny things can happen. We probably shouldn’t have lost to St. Marys the last time we were there, but we did. Hopefully, this time we’ll be more focused.”
Pierson’s hope is that the 2011 Warriors learned that lesson from their failure to win the OVAC championship this year, after going in a bit overconfident.
“We had beat Madonna pretty handily earlier in the year and thought all we had to do was show up to win, and we lost,” Pierson said of their OVAC championship game opponent. “It just goes to show you that teams like Madonna, and Meadow Bridge and these other schools are going to show up and play hard.”
Madonna (22-3) is seeded No. 3, and would not meet Trinity again until the state title game.
As for Meadow Bridge (17-5), it just happens to be Trinity’s firstround opponent. And although Meadow Bridge is seeded No. 8, it does have one thing working for it — the unknown.
“I did not realize that Meadow Bridge has a new coach. If it was their old coach, I would have had some idea of what they would do, but now I have no idea what to expect,” Pierson said. “All I really do know is that they’ve done really well all year, they’ve beat some good teams. So all we can really do in preparation for them is show up and play hard.”
It is somewhat surprising that Meadow Bridge is an eighth seed given its record compared to No. 7 Williamson’s (12-11). That makes the Warriors’ opener a considerably harder draw than Pierson expected.
But, he said, that is to be expected.
“Seeding is difficult because you don’t see every team, yet as a coach you’re expected to rank them,” he said. “The northern teams don’t know much about the southern teams and the southern teams don’t know much about the northern teams, so there is going to be some uncertainty.
“We have seen some of these teams, so we know what to expect from a few of them,” he added. “We’re just hoping we can build from the regional game we played (against Pendleton County), because that is about as good as we can play.”
If Trinity beats Meadow Bridge, its next game will be against No. 4 Tucker County (18-8) or No. 5 Wheeling Central (15-11).
The Warriors went 2-0 against those teams this season.

Ron Rittenhouse/The Dominion Post
The Mohigans players enjoy their regional basketball championship (above). Trinity’s players accept their regional championship trophy.

Bob Gay/The Dominion Post

Woodrow Wilson 76.9 South Charleston 73.6 Wheeling Park 72.6 Geo. Washington 68.6
Morgantown 65.9
Logan 64.8 Hedgesville 60.3 Robert C. Byrd 52.3
Hedgesville 36.7 Robert C. Byrd 43.4
Morgantown 45.4
Geo. Washington 51.0 Wheeling Park 51.8 Woodrow Wilson 52.4 South Charleston 59.1 Logan 64.9
Madonna 72.2
Trinity 71.2
Wheeling Central 61.6 Midland Trail 60.6 Williamson 59.4 Tucker County 59.2 Chas. Catholic 58.7 Meadow Bridge 56.0
Chas. Catholic 44.5 Meadow Bridge 46.8 Midland Trail 49.0
Trinity 50.3
Tucker County 50.3 Madonna 53.8 Williamson 57.3 Wheeling Central 57.7