Morgantown, University meet in 5A final

ST. CLAIRSVILLE– Dave Tallman Jr. and his Morgantown High hoop team experienced a dream season a year ago.

The Magnolia High product guided the Mohigans to the school’s first-ever boys’ state basketball crown. They also won the OVAC 5A championship. The icing on the cake was Tallman’s crew doing it all in unbeaten style, fashioning a remarkable 27-0 season.

Morgantown is not unbeaten this winter. However, the Mohigans are enjoying another successful campaign, one in which includes a return trip to the OVAC finals tonight at Ohio University Eastern.

Second-seeded Morgantown punched its ticket into the conference championship via a 78-58 win over Parkersburg South Tuesday night.

The Mohigans will be meeting intra-city rival University in their quest to repeat. The top-seeded Hawks blasted Beaver Local in their semi test by a 105-50 count.

Morgantown and University have split a pair of regular-season decisions, both winning on the road. The Hawks won the initial matchup, 54-50, before the Mohigans gained a measure of revenge, 59-54.

This year’s OVAC championship matchup serves as a rematch to last year’s finale — a 69-52 Morgantown triumph.

The Mohigans bring a 16-4 mark and No. 4 state rating into the title tilt while the Hawks are 16-4 and ranked No. 2 in the latest state poll.

Joe Schmidle guides the Hawks. He employs a pressuring defensive style while also utilizing a deep bench.

“I am very confident in my kids coming off the bench,” Schmidle said said. “We have kids coming off the bench who could start for most teams.”

Morgantown’s success is somewhat surprising. Tallman graduated four starters. All four are playing on the collegiate level.

“I don’t think many people expected us to be 16-4 this year after the people we lost and the schedule we have played. We graduated most of our scoring,” Tallman said. “We lost four games at the free throw line. We have played seven games in 11 days against good competition. We have really challenged the kids and it has really helped us.”

Senior Nicky Solomon is the lone returning Mohigan starter, and a very good one. The 6 ft. point guard leads the team in scoring (20 ppg.) and rebounds (6 rpg).

Torin Hanson is another starter at guard. The 6-1 senior is the team’s second leading scorer (16.0 ppg) and is coming off a 32-point explosion in the semifinals.

Hard-working Deon Agnew starts in the frontcourt. The 6-3 forward, who has a slew of relatives in the Ohio Valley, is a deadly three-point shooter while also being a defensive enforcer.

Promising Nick Malone is the man the middle for the Mohigans. He is a 6-6 sophomore who has steadily improved during the course of the season.

Junior Jayron Wilson rounds out the starting five. The 5-7 guard is Tallman’s defensive stopper.

Tallman has no problems with depth as he relies on a trio of solid reserves. They include 6-3 senior forward Nathanial Phillips, 5-10 junior guard Andrew Selders and 6-ft sophomore forward Lamar Haskins.

“We take pride in our defense. We pressure the ball. We are giving up only 49 points a game which is really impressive considering who we play,” Tallman said. “There is a high level of respect between University and us. We have both been ranked in the state top four for most of the season.

“They are a great team with no real weakness. They can shoot it and pass it. They have great chemistry,” he added. “University mixes things up. It is a tough matchup. We need to execute in all aspects.”

University’s only other blemish was a tough 58-53 setback to Huntington, the No. 6-ranked team in West Virginia.

“This season has been an exciting one for UHS. We have traveled throughout the state trying to play a tough schedule with hopes that it will prepare us to make a run at the state tournament,” Schmidle said. “We feel like our program has improved the last three years, but we still haven’t accomplished our goal of going to Charleston for the state tournament. We are happy with our record of 18-2, but that record means nothing if we don’t advance to states. The kids have been focused and we are just trying to peak at the right time.

“Honestly playing MHS is always a great experience and we know that we will be in for a great game vs. one of the top teams in the state. The kids love playing in that game against each other, but you could potentially have to play the same team five times in one season, and I don’t think that’s necessarily good for anyone,” he added. “It would be nice to play a school you don’t play in the regular season. I think it would give it more of a true tournament feel rather than playing your crosstown rival two hours from home.”

The Hawks’ starting lineup is a mixture of youth and experience, featuring three seniors a junior and a freshman.

Ethan Ridgeway is the team’s top scorer. The 6-foot junior forward is averaging 17.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest.

Geoff Hamperian provides punch at power forward. The 6-4 senior averages 15 points and 5.4 boards per outing. Ryan McCord rounds out the front court. The 6-5 senior center avarages five points and four rebounds.

The backourt is comprised of Kaden Metheny and Holton Summers. Metheny is a 5-8 freshman dishing out four assists to go with nine points and 2.5 steals. Summers is a 5-10 senior tossing in 6.5 points and handing out four assists per game.

University’s top two reserves are Austin Forbes and Storm Leftridge. Forbes is a 6-2 junior forward averaging eight points a game while Leftridge is a 6-3 junior center, delivering 4.7 points and four rebounds a game.

“I like the OVAC Tournament and enjoy getting to play at Ohio University Eastern,” Schmidle offered. “We have been fortunate enough to be here two years in a row.

“We’re hoping we can leave here with a different result than we did last year.”


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