Mohigans flex defensive muscles early against John Marshall to open postseason play

MORGANTOWN — It’s still February but the sweet scent of March is in the air as postseason play began for girls basketball across the state of West Virginia on Tuesday night with sectional tournaments getting underway.

The Class AAAA Region II, Section 1 No. 2 Morgantown Mohigans started their road to a title defense with a solid 63-38 all-around victory over the No. 3 John Marshall Monarchs inside the Rowdie Center at Morgantown High.

With the win, MHS advances to play on the road at No. 1 Wheeling Park in the section championship game on Friday at 7 p.m.

The Mohigans were led in scoring by senior Paige Smith who finished tied for the game-high of 15 points, shooting 6 of 7 from the floor with three triples.

“It’s a new season and we are 1-0, that’s what we stressed this week,” MHS head coach Doug Goodwin said. “We knew we needed to be ready to go out of the gate and I thought the girls did a nice job tonight to get off to a good start there early in the first quarter.”

Despite a slow start to the game offensively for both sides, MHS held a 5-2 advantage after a few minutes played. Then, with the help of applying a relentless full-court press, the Mohigans went on a 15-0 run that lasted nearly the entire quarter until JM sophomore Rilee Storm ended that with a deep three-pointer. Six different scorers for MHS helped it to a 22-5 advantage after the opening frame.

A three by senior Emma Howell extended the MHS lead to 32-8 with five minutes to go until halftime but the Monarchs closed the half strong and doubled their total in the final few minutes of the second quarter. MHS still held a 39-17 advantage at the break.

At halftime, every player that saw the floor for MHS had scored a basket. The Mohigans finished with three players in double-figures as Smith was joined by freshman Kayli Kellogg with 13 and junior Sadaya Jones who finished with 12. Six of the seven scorers made at least three field goals as well.

“We knew coming into this season we would have to put in a lot of work to be where we want,” Smith said. “Another big thing for us on offense is playing team ball and making that extra pass or waiting for the best shot.”

Another strong quarter on the defensive end in the third put the game away for MHS, leading 58-24 after three quarters.

JM had a strong fourth quarter, outscoring MHS 14-5 but the deficit was too great to overcome.

The Monarchs end their season at 13-10.

“We knew coming down how difficult a team like Morgantown on the road would be,” JM coach Brock Melko said. “I remember thinking in the first quarter multiple times about what we could even try to do to score. They make it very difficult for you at all times. Very proud of this group for their hard work this season.”

Morgantown and Wheeling Park will meet for the fourth time this season, the Patriots have taken two out of the three meetings, the most recent being for the OVAC 5A championship.

“We will prep the next two days for a tough game and head up the road Friday ready to play,” Goodwin said.

Morgantown first-team all-state senior Lily Jordan didn’t play on Tuesday night. Goodwin says she is day-to-day and will be evaluated before Friday’s game against Wheeling Park.

Morgantown 63, John Marshall 38

JM 5 12 7 14 – 38
MHS 22 17 19 5 – 63
JOHN MARSHALL — Storm 5 2-2 15; Derrow 5 2-3 13; White 1 0-0 2; Inclan 1 0-2 3; Reese 2 1-1 5. 
MORGANTOWN — Smith 6 0-0 15; Kellogg 5 3-3 13; Jones 5 0-3 12; Howell 3 0-0 7; Hatcher 3 0-0 6; Wassick 3 0-0 6; Paulsen 2 0-0 4.
3-Pt. Goals — John Marshall 5 (Storm 3, Derrow 1, Inclan 1). Morgantown 6 (Smith 3, Jones 2, Howell1)