On the same day that one team completed a perfect, 28-0, season, another bid to do the same was upended.
And that bid, by the top seeded team in Triple-A Martinsburg, was stopped by University, the same team that the Bulldogs’ beat in last year’s semi-finals.
The Hawks, making their first appearance in a boys’ basketball title game, beat the favorite, quite possibly signaling that they will be the favorite next year in the class.
KJ McClurg built on an impressive tournament run, as did Kaden Metheny, both of whom will return next year for the Hawks. McClurg scored a game-high 20 points, Metheny added 15, and University captured its first hoops crown, 51-45.
“It’s hard to believe five years ago where we were with this program. I knew where we needed to get to in order to get down here. And just the hours of hard work and dedication from my staff and these kids has been second to none,” said Hawks head coach Joe Schmidle.
Neither team scored at its normal rate, though Schmidle made it known that much more credit should be give to both defenses – specifically his defense – for the low scoring game.
It was a 19-18 contest heading into the locker room at halftime, but McClurg scored 13 of his points in the second half, including going 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
He not only hit the 3-pointer that gave University a two-point lead in the thrid quarter – a lead that the Hawks never surrendered in the second half – but he also kicked a pass to senior Rodney Bucklew for a corner three that gave the Hawks a big momentum swing.
Bucklew, one of just two seniors for UHS, summed up the win this way.
“Last three years lost in the semi-finals. Last year we lost to Martinsburg in the semi-finals to a charge call. Kind of had flashbacks again, but Kaden got the charge this time, on them. It just feels amazing. It’s incredible,” he said.
Schmidle’s defense held the Bulldogs to just 27-percent shooting from the floor in the game, and 15-percent from three-point land.
Teddy Marshall paced Martinsburg with 17 points. No other MHS player scored more than eight.
University finishes the season with a 24-4, and by returning much of its team for next season, will likely be the favorite heading into it.
But if this year was any indication, with much hype surrounding the team from the start, they won’t count on or need people believing they’re the favorite. That is, as long as they do.