Cardinals Roll Into Semifinals

Cardinals still impressive despite loss of senior Moseh

Photo by Sam Santilli Wheeling Jesuit’s Ryan Cooper goes up for a shot Friday during action of the MEC Tournament.

CHARLESTON — With senior Pat Moseh lost for the season with a knee injury, it stood to reason Wheeling Jesuit would need some time to adjust to life without the All-Mountain East Conference first-teamer. Friday at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum, the Cardinals did their best to disprove that theory.

Conference player of the year Haywood Highsmith had 20 points and 18 rebounds while Preston Boswell contributed 19 points as second-seeded Wheeling Jesuit (24-5) rolled to a 72-58 victory against UVa.-Wise in a MEC Tournament quarterfinal matchup. The Cardinals earned a meeting with Concord at 8:15 tonight, with a berth in the finals on the line.

“This was a hard-fought win but we played well in all areas and the defense really locked down,” Wheeling Jesuit coach Danny Sancomb said. “When you lose a player like Pat who is in the top 10 in the league in points, rebounds and assists, everyone has to do more.

“We’ve got a tough team with tough players. I mean this when I say it … Wise is the best team in the league at getting to loose balls. But we played hard and won the loose-ball battle convincingly.”

The Cardinals received a big boost off the bench from Ryan Cooper, who in 20 minutes scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. With Moseh out and Jeremiah Wilson getting into early foul trouble, Sancomb had to extend the minutes of Cooper and also Brandon Hoban, who scored five points and ripped five rebounds.

“It says a lot about those guys that they were able to stay engaged,” Sancomb said. “It’s not that I haven’t wanted to give them more minutes, they just aren’t there.

“It says a lot about those players and a lot about the leadership of our team.”

Drake Goddard hit a 3-pointer to give WJU an 18-17 lead and it didn’t trail the rest of the game. Cooper scored all 10 of his points in a first half that saw the Cardinals close with a 31-11 run to lead 46-28.

“We played extremely hard, but we couldn’t get going on offense,” Cavaliers (14-16) coach Blake Mellinger said of his team, which shot 36.6 percent. “We knew we had to rebound to have a chance to win this game, and we got outrebounded 55-38.

“As good a player as he is — and I have a ton of respect for Pat Moseh — they are still very good without him.”

UVa.-Wise had one final run in it. Taiwon Badmus connected on three straight 3-pointers as part of his 22-point, 13-rebound performance, to cut the Jesuit lead to 48-37. Michal Seals added a putback on the next trip before Boswell ended that run with a 3-pointer.

However, Wheeling Jesuit went 5:53 with no points as the Cavaliers got as close as 51-45. Hoban and Highsmith then scored on back-to-back trips before Goddard hit two of his eight to get it back to a 12-point cushion.

“We had to settle down and get a few stops on defense,” Boswell said. “Badmus hit three or four 3-pointers in a row to start the half and give them some momentum.”

It didn’t last long, though, and Sancomb knows why.

“The big difference is we put Haywood on 50 (Badmus),” Sancomb said. “He did an unbelievable job.”

Wilson dunked to get to the lead back to 19 at 67-48 and WJU, which owned the paint by outscoring Wise 36-18 and winning the battle of second-chance points 17-6, cruised from there.

“I told (Moseh) before we left to come to Charleston that I was going to do everything I could to bring him back a trophy,” Highsmith said.

Seals and Yesid Mosquera-Perea added 10 points each for the Cavaliers.

“Preston and Haywood and the rest of the guys did just enough to get us to 72 (points),” Sancomb said. “Badmus and Seals are two of the best players in the conference and we wanted to make them work for everything they got.

“Our guards were pounding the glass, which I told them they were going to have to do. When we get to 60 points, we’re pretty tough to beat.”