SC, Morgantown hoping to end frustration
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two teams tangle tonight at the Civic Center in a game bearing a bunch of state tournament history. Much of it, however, remains forgettable.
Third-seeded South Charleston (23-2) and No. 6 seed Morgantown (19-6) vie at approximately 7:15 in the Class AAA quarterfinals with an opportunity to make more memorable history.
The Black Eagles have lost their last three games at the state tournament, including one-and-done appearances the past two seasons. Prior to that, they lost in the 2009 finals, marking a third straight setback in the title game and making them 0-6 all-time playing for the championship.
Meanwhile, the Mohigans have carved out a nice first-round record under veteran coach Tom Yester. Their problem, though, comes in the semifinals.
Morgantown plays in the state tournament for a ninth time since 2002, carrying a 6-2 record in the quarterfinals. Yester, however, is 0-6 in semifinals in that stretch and 0-7 in the semis overall as he makes his 14th trip to the states since becoming coach in 1982.
The Mohigans are 1-15 all-time in semifinal games, not reaching the finals since a Jay Jacobs-led team fell to Jerry West and East Bank in the 1956 Class A title game.
Tonight's tussle could come down to how well the taller Mohigans fare against SC's trademark pressure defenses. The Black Eagles have forced an average of 22 turnovers in their three postseason games thus far.
"We're going to have to pick our spots,'' said SC coach Vic Herbert. "We're not going to stay in full-court pressure the whole game. There are six, seven different things we do in full-court pressure.
"Sometimes we back up with them. Sometimes we full-out trap, but we try to pick our time and what we do. We play some man, some zone depending on what the situation needs. We get into our traps and pressure even in the half-court set. They'll have a rough time, but if it doesn't bother them, I agree it'll be a rough time for us.''
Morgantown was certainly playing at a high level before 6-foot-8 senior Nathan Adrian, a WVU recruit, was sidelined with a broken bone in his foot and missed 10 games.
The Mohigans started out 12-2 and were ranked No. 3 in AAA at the time, with Adrian averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds. They beat teams such as Martinsburg, Washington and Parkersburg South (twice) - teams that all wound up making the state tournament field.
But with Adrian out, as well as 6-4 senior Austin Agnew (lost at midseason with a torn ACL and meniscus), Morgantown fell four times in 10 games, including setbacks to Wheeling Park, University, Fairmont Senior and Woodrow Wilson.
Adrian sparked the squad upon his return in the postseason, scoring 12 points in 11/2 quarters in a sectional finals comeback win against University and 20 points in the regional against Park.
Yester hopes his players continue to find their rhythm with Adrian back in the lineup.
"Nathan's got to play big, obviously,'' Yester said, "and [Nick] Colasante has to handle the ball well and [Dean] Marshall has to take it to the rim. All those things have to happen for us to be successful.
"It should be no problem [getting adjusted to Adrian again]. These kids are very intelligent. They know who our best player is, no problem. We've got six seniors - though [Agnew] is out injured - and they've played with each other for a long time. They get along well. I've never seen any jealousy or what-have-you.''
SC expects the return of leading scorer A.D. Cunningham (13.6), who sat out the regional with a knee injury.
The two teams played a single regular-season game in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, with the Mohigans winning each time by eight and 12 points, respectively.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.