MORGANTOWN - Wednesday night, the 17-5 Morgantown boys' basketball team played host to 10-13 Brooke in the Region One, Section One semifinals, and according to Mohigans coach Tom Yester, there were plenty of reasons to be wary of the Bruins.
''We just played them last week (a double-digit MHS victory), which has a way of making the second game a little closer,'' he explained. ''Psychologically, it's easier to attack than to defend, and they had absolutely nothing to lose, so we wanted to take it to them and take care of our business."
Brooke’s Eric Johnson (22) gets tangled up with Morgantown’s Nathan Adrian on Wednesday.
Bob Gay/The Dominion Post
Morgantown broke open a tight game with a 29-point, second-quarter burst, then cruised in the second half to a comfortable 77-55 victory.
''The big difference tonight was their length,'' Bruins coach Dave Reitter said. ''We knew we were going to have to pound the boards and box out really well, and also execute offensively, but (Nick) Colasante hit three early 3s, which brought us out a little, and we just can't match up with (Nathan) Adrian.''
Colasante was solid on both ends of the court in the first quarter, nailing a pair of 3-pointers and using quick hands to force several turnovers, but Brooke (10-14) managed to hang around and only trailed by 18-15 after one.
That's when Morgantown (18-5) took full advantage of its length, pounding the glass and forcing the issue on offense, leading to multiple trips to the foul line. Converting all 11 freebies helped the Mohigans outscore Brooke by 13 points in the quarter, and MHS carried a 47-31 lead into the locker room.
The second half was mostly Dean Marshall and Adrian for MHS, as they scored 22 of the Mohigans. 30 points, Adrian leading all scorers with 23, and Marshall scoring a season-high 20. In fact, Yester was pleased that his team was a single point (from Colasante) away from having five players in double figures.
''We were pretty balanced,'' he said, ''and I especially liked what we got from Jeff Leftridge, who rebounded well, played well defensively, and scored 12 points.
''Secondary scoring like that (Connor Loudin chipped in 11 as well) is what we'll need as we move on.
''We could've put the clamps down defensively a little better, especially after we went up by 20 early in the second half (on a big dunk by Adrian), but we never let it get to double digits, so that was decent. Survive and advance.''
Marshall, who looked for his shot and drove to the rim aggressively all night, was reacting to what Brooke showed defensively.
''They went with a smaller lineup, trying to trap us, so we tried to take it to the paint as much as we could,'' he explained. ''We just need to play this way all the time - spread it around, take what the defense gives us, don't force it.''
For the fourth time this season, Morgantown will face Wheeling Park, this time for the sectional championship, at home at 7:30 on Friday night. Upon hearing of the damage Park star Boo Lathon wreaked on University in WP's six-point victory, Marshall just shook his head.
''He's good, a great athlete,'' he said with a smile. ''We'll have to try to prepare for a collaborative effort to control him as much as we can.
''Some of our guys have played Park 10 or 12 times, so there won't be any surprises. The team that executes the best will win.''
Reitter was obviously disappointed, but was happy with his team's effort.
''The boys played hard all year, and I think we accomplished a lot,'' he said. ''I'm still very proud of the year we had.
''We just need to carry the accomplishments from this year on to next year.''
Eric Johnson led the way for the Bruins with 14 points. Russell Schwertfeger added 13 and Nick Breek backed him with 12.