Nathan Adrian missed five weeks with a broken foot.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The return of senior forward Nathan Adrian saved the day for Morgantown in the sectional and regional tournaments, but Mohigans coach Tom Yester knows that nothing will save his team if it crumbles against South Charleston's pressure defense.The sixth-seeded Mohigans (19-6) tackle the No. 3 seed Black Eagles (23-2) at 7:15 p.m. Thursday in the Class AAA state tournament quarterfinals at the Civic Center.Adrian, a 6-foot-8 West Virginia University recruit, missed about five weeks with a broken foot suffered at midseason, but answered the call when his team trailed University in the sectional finals by six points with 11/2 quarters left to play.That's when he came off the bench for the first time since his injury and scored 12 points in the Mohigans' comeback win. He then added 20 points in a regional victory against Wheeling Park.
"Talk about dramatic timing,'' Yester said. "The odd thing was how well he played."The spark was mostly emotional, then he knocked in four, six, eight quick points [against University] and played beautifully. He was excited, and it excited his teammates. That was the psychology that let us do it.''Morgantown's record with its all-stater in the lineup improved to 13-2. Without Adrian, the Mohigans are a nondescript 6-4.
SC coach Vic Herbert realizes what his team is getting into on Thursday. He thinks the Mohigans with Adrian are much better than advertised."It tells me that arguably the best player in the state is on their team,'' Herbert said. "Are they really a 6 seed? No. All year long, they're a 2 or 3. We've got a tough draw, a tough draw. They're very, very good."That's why I thought we should have gotten a 2 seed for our body of work beginning to end. Nothing against Woodrow [Wilson, which got the No. 2 seed]. They lost four games [in a stretch of five] earlier in the year. We didn't. We lost one at the beginning and one at the end. We had two more wins than them and beat them on their home floor, just like they beat us on ours. We end up with the third seed and have to play on Thursday instead of Wednesday, and I've got a problem with that. I don't think it's fair.''Yester realizes that for his team to survive and reach the semifinals, it's going to have to be able to overcome SC's defensive pressure.
"That's it,'' Yester said. "They trap and go. They run two different types of traps, sometimes three. They run man, diamond and one, a 1-2-1-1 or a 2-2-1, and they run it pretty successfully and they run it with different intensity."The biggest thing is we have to take care of the ball and get it into the paint. If we can get it into the paint, I like our chances. If we have 25 turnovers and can't get it in the paint and have to rely on outside shots, it's going to be a long night. That's what it's got to come down to: Can we handle the traps? We know what we want to do. Can we execute it? We'll see.''Herbert agreed that the key of the game boils down to how well Morgantown performs against SC's swarming defense."They'll have a rough time,'' Herbert said. "But if it doesn't bother them, then we'll have a rough time. I agree with that. We're going to have to pick our spots and not stay in full-court pressure the whole game.''
Yester noted that his squads have beaten South Charleston in the schools' last two meetings, including a 70-58 conquest last year during the regular season."So our kids know their kids,'' Yester said. "It's a matter of being calm, cool and collected, and attacking when they get the opportunity and making something of it.''Yester said another formula for failure against SC is to let the undersized Black Eagles control the rebounding with their quickness to loose balls."They're not that big,'' Yester said, "but they're a very good rebounding team. They're quick off the floor and they go get it. I think they know it and everybody else knows it. They remind me of Woodrow Wilson, Washington and Martinsburg with their quickness."If you can't rebound, South Charleston with extra shots is very, very good.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.