GLEN DALE - Turnovers again proved to be an Achilles heel for the John Marshall girls' basketball team during Wednesday's Senior Night joust against West Virginia Class AAA power Morgantown.
The Monarchs threw the ball away no less than 30 times but, surprisingly, stayed close until well into the third quarter when the Mohigans finally caught fire and pulled away for a 64-46 victory.
''We practice and hammer it all week that we need to take care of the basketball and make the extra pass,'' a disappointed Mark McCormick said after his team lost for the second time this season to Morgantown. In the earlier meeting, John Marshall (10-7) led by three deep into the fourth quarter but made several critical mistakes that swung the game the Mohigans' way.
John Marshall’s Jenna Stephens (52) tries to get around the defense of Morgantown’s Tiara Ireland on Wednesday.
Photo by Josh Strope
''I'm not taking any credit away from them," McCormick continued. ''Coach (Adam) Hinkins has a nice team but this was nip and tuck again until we started shooting ourselves in the foot."
Actually both teams had their share of mistakes early in the game when there were nearly as many turnovers as points in the first quarter.
The sides equally divided 14 turnovers while combining to score 16 points with Morgantown claiming a 10-6 lead after converting three straight John Marshall errors into transition baskets, two by slick junior guard Tiara Ireland.
When they weren't making mistakes, the Monarchs gave the Mohigans plenty of reasons to be concerned. JM attacked the basket well resulting in 12 team fouls being called on Morgantown in the opening half. Although struggling from two-point range with five field goals in 20 attempts during the first two quarters, the Monarchs drained 13 of 19 free throws.
Trailing 16-13 nearing the midway point of the second quarter, John Marshall took the lead after neat entry passes from Jenna Stephens and Kristin Lewicki resulted in goals by Kylie Howard and Alexis Montes. Howard followed with a two steals and added two free throws after being hacked on her way to the basket, giving John Marshall its biggest lead at 19-16.
Two nice spin moves by Morgantown's senior post Bre Nuzum and a pair of goals from Leah Taylor sparked an 8-0 run that put the visitors in front to stay at 24-19. It was a one-point game entering the final minute of the half, then two critical Monarchs mistakes resulted a pair of free throws by Taylor and Olivia Naugle's coast-to-coast drive that sent Morgantown (15-3) off the court with a 28-23 lead.
Eight different Mohigans scored points in the third quarter and the visitors opened the second half with a 20-4 run that broke the game wide open. Five quick points, a 3-pointer and two foul shots by Rachel Michael, pushed the lead into double digits for the first time at 34-24. In front by 21 late in the third quarter, Morgantown entered the final eight minutes leading 50-34.
Back-to-back Montes goals cut the deficit to a dozen points but the Mohigans put out the fire with an 8-2 spurt during the next two minutes.
''I thought we did a much better job of rebounding in the second half but the big turnaround was during the third quarter when we got some steals and runouts that led to easy layups," Hinkins said.
Although 10 players shared in the Morgantown scoring, leading the way were Nuzum with 16 points along with Taylor and Ireland with 12 and 10, respectively. Nuzum was 8 of 12 from the floor, scoring four points in each quarter after demanding the game be put in her hands.
''Bre was a little frustrated with herself early and asked me during a timeout to get her the ball," Hinkins said. "When she tells me that, I know how much she wants it and good things usually happen like they did."
Montes, one of four John Marshall seniors playing their final regular-season home game, had another strong outing with 22 points but she was the only Monarchs player in double figures. Stephens, another senior, pulled down 10 rebounds.
''Defense definitely wasn't an issue," McCormick insisted. ''The frustrating thing is that most of our turnovers came in the front court when we were in our half-court game. For some reason, we feel like we have to do something right away and that we don't need to make that extra pass. Small stuff like that is what's killing us. In order for us to get where want to go this season, we have to start shoring up our mistakes."