Home Uncategorized PERFECTO! Morgantown Finishes Perfect and AAA Championship

PERFECTO! Morgantown Finishes Perfect and AAA Championship

by David Kravetz



By Rich Stevens

The on-court conversation wasn’t particularly diplomatic, but it provided more dramatics at the Class AAA boys high school basketball state championship game.

It also invigorated undefeated Morgantown, as if the No. 1 Mohigans needed any help in claiming the school’s first boys basketball title.

Senior Kenzie Melko had 15 of his 17 points and nine of his 14 rebounds in the second half and overtime and Morgantown held off two-time defending champion Huntington for a 65-62 verdict in overtime.

The Mohigans (27-0) became the first Class AAA team since 1985 to finish undefeated when coach Don Stover’s Stonewall Jackson Generals were 26-0.

It also was Morgantown’s first boys championship in 24 trips to the state tournament dating to 1917 when it lost in the semifinals in a one-class system. The only other time Morgantown played in the final was 1956 when it lost to Jerry West and East Bank.

“We’ll have a bond that will last forever,” said Morgantown coach Dave Tallman, who played for the 2000 Magnolia team that won the Class AA title.

Tallman’s high school coach was his father, also Dave Tallman, whose team won the 2015 single-A championship, but fell in this year’s semifinals on Friday to St. Joseph.

He sat in the front row near the Morgantown bench, saying he was more nervous watching his son coach than he is trying to win as a coach.

Despite multiple hindrances, missed free throws and opportunities given star point guard Tavian Dunn-Martin and the Highlanders (25-2), Morgantown held on to be the only favored team to win a state championship this week.

“Total team effort,” the Morgantown coach said. “People want to talk about coaching decisions. I’m coaching, but I’m not the one when we were down, playing defense and rebounding. It’s all about these guys.”

Dunn-Martin misfired on a 3-pointer with five seconds left in regulation and had a layup that went in and out with 11 seconds in overtime.

Dunn-Martin was 1-of-11 from 3-point range after hitting 10-of-20 in the semifinals and quarterfinals combined.

However, he led his team with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot with no turnovers.

“It’s a tough loss,” Dunn-Martin said. “I had the ball in my hands, missed a layup.”

The back-and-forth game featured four lead changes and eight ties with each team holding a nine-point advantage. The Highlanders largest lead was with 6:11 left at the height of emotions.

The teams were exchanging words and, at one point, officials had to talk to players from both teams.

Morgantown guard Antonio Morgano, whose teammates called the “best defender in the state,” almost forced a turnover against Dunn-Martin and immediately stared down his counterpart with no response from the Huntington star.

“It was just part of intimidation,” Morgano said. “That’s part of his game and I wasn’t going to let him do that.”

Melko, who was joined by teammates Steven Solomon and Nicky Solomon on the All-Tournament team, helped energize a 16-4 run capped by a dunk to give Morgantown a 54-50 lead with 3:21 remaining.

Huntington reserve Jadon Hayes hit two free throws and J.R. Howard scored two of his team-high 20 points to tie the score and force overtime.

Steven Solomon, the senior Solomon brother, had a tip-in and a pair of free throws in overtime. His first basket gave Morgantown the lead for good.

Melko had an overtime basket as did 6-7 forward Elvin McNally, who finished with eight points and six of Morgantown’s 44 rebounds.

Dunn-Martin hit a jump shot that cut the lead to 58-57 with 2:42 remaining and two free throws to trim it to 60-59 at 1:49, but the Highlanders couldn’t get over the hump.

Two missed free throws from McNally with eight seconds remaining left the window open for the two-time defending champions. Dunn-Martin went the length of the court and split the lane, but his layup with one second left wouldn’t fall.

“Anytime we have the ball in Tavian’s hands, we feel good,” Huntington coach Ron Hess said. “I just thought it was a great championship game. We had a chance to win.”

Dunn-Martin was playing in his 10th state tournament game and third final after the Highlanders fell in the quarterfinals his freshman year.

The guard, who will play his college basketball at Akron, played 287 minutes in four years of state tournament games, hitting 58-of-154 field goals, 28-of-88 3-pointers and 37-of-44 free throws with 43 rebounds, 28 assists and 181 points.

The championship capped a Morgantown season during which the Mohigans defeated every team ranked in the top five of the Associated Press Poll of the state’s sportswriters – Huntington, Woodrow Wilson, Martinsburg (twice) and Capital; as well as Parkersburg South (three times), which also was ranked in the top 10.

“No disrespect to Huntington, but we’re the undisputed champs,” Morgantown’s coach said. “We didn’t play a single double-A team. We beat everybody. We played them all, and beat them all.”

Steven Solomon had 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals and brother Nicky Solomon added nine points and eight boards.

Dajon Congleton finished with eight rebounds for Huntington, which also received a game-high 20 points from J.R. Howard and 11 points and six rebounds from Mikal Dawson.

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