Don’t count ’em out, but beat-up Mohigans facing a big challenge
LOSING NATHAN ADRIAN to a broken foot Monday was a shocking blow to the Morgantown High boys’ basketball team.
Potentially losing starting forward Austin Agnew, pending the results of today’s MRI, or, at best, having the services of an Agnew who has been in and out of games with a banged-up knee, just adds to the ache.
The pair of big men watching warm-ups from center court on crutches before Monday’s game against Preston wasn’t an image MHS head coach Tom Yester could have dreamed up going into this season, when MHS had all the pieces to challenge for its first state boys’ basketball title.
In November, Adrian (20.5 points, 13.5 rebounds per game) signed to receive a scholarship to play next year at WVU. He was expected to lead an MHS team that returned six experienced seniors. Agnew (10.3 ppg) seemed to have become a different player during the summer, one who could relieve the pressure from Adrian by forcing opponents to divide their attention in the paint. MHS (12-2) knocked off No. 1 Martinsburg less than two weeks ago.
No wonder the Rowdy Center was lethargic Monday evening.
“I think we were just a little bit off our normal game, without having our big guys in there down low,” MHS junior Scott Core said. “It’s definitely a lot different than when your twin towers are blocking every shot and scoring every shot down low, so we definitely prepared ourselves to find other ways to score.”
The Mohigans got the win by focusing on defense and transition points, and it sure didn’t hurt that they shot 50 percent from the field.
C.J. King, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, scored seven points under the basket — as many as he had posted all season. At one point, PHS head coach Barry Sanders briefly took out his starting center, Tyler Groves, and told him, “Get a short rest, he’s a lot to handle.”
Core scored a career-high 11 points, and sophomore Thomas Selby grabbed three rebounds with his six points in a 61-52 win. Juniors Todd Turner and Shawn Carden often rounded out an unfamiliar lineup.
“That group plays well together. The chemistry has always been good because we’ve been playing together for so long,” Core said. “Having the other players out there, just mixing it up, it’s not going to affect anything because we all have chemistry and we all know how to play ball together.”
They didn’t win against any slouches, either. Preston was 11-2 entering the contest and has been ranked as high as seventh in the state this season.
But MHS shouldn’t be, and surely isn’t, resting.
Adrian is out for 6-8 weeks. He said his doctors think he can play in the state tournament, March 13-16 — exactly six weeks from today. Should he be ready, the question is, can MHS make it there without the pair?
With sectional realignment, MHS is in Region I Section II with University, Preston and John Marshall. Region I Section I contains Brooke, Parkersburg, Parkersburg South and Wheeling Park.
MHS must win its first sectional game. It can then lose its second sectional game and still continue to regionals, but a win would earn homecourt advantage. That regional game is a must-win to join the top eight teams in Charleston.
John Marshall is an easy victory, MHS has proven it still can beat Preston, and anything can happen in the rivalry with UHS. In other words, getting out of sectionals is not out of the question. At this point, it seems likely the regional foe would be Parkersburg South or Brooke. Right now, it’s just too early to tell how this version of MHS would handle either opponent. It’s not too early to say, it will be tough.
KRISTIN KURELIC is a sports reporter for The Dominion Post. Write to her at  .