MORGANTOWN - He could see this one coming.
Morgantown boys' basketball coach Tom Yester didn't like his team's practice Monday, didn't like the way it walked - as opposed to ran - onto the court Tuesday when it played host to Wheeling Park in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals.
''Kids this age, they should be hoppin' and boppin' every time they're given a chance to go out and play,'' he said, ''but we didn't have that, not at game time.''
And that lethargy led directly to a 31-14 halftime deficit, and although the Mohigans woke up in the second half well enough to tie the score, they couldn't quite make it over the hump and finally bowed to the Patriots, 45-40.
In a first half that Yester described as ''just the worst,'' Morgantown (14-4) rebounded atrociously and couldn't keep Park's athletic wingman, Boo Lathon, in check. Lathon, who scored 10 first-quarter points on his way to a game-high 17, pounded the glass, and hit a 3 at the buzzer to lead Wheeling Park (14-5) to a 15-8 advantage.
The Patriots continued to hit from distance, starting the second quarter with three more 3-pointers as then put together a 16-2 run. Morgantown was sloppy on offense, a step slow defensively, and seemed to lose its poise, as evidenced by three first-half technical fouls.
It couldn't have been much worse.
Not surprisingly, the Mohigans came out too late for the shootaround before the second half, no doubt enduring an earful from their coach, and it seemed to make a difference, as solid defense and assertive point guard play from junior Nick Colasante allowed them to whittle the Patriots' lead to single digits at 38-29 by the end of the quarter.
Morgantown forward Nathan Adrian took control to begin the final quarter and his pair of free throws and 3-pointer sliced the lead to five. After Mark Johnson's steal, layup, and conversion after the foul, the Mohigans had crept to within a bucket. Finally, after three unsuccessful offensive trips were squandered, Adrian converted a pair of free throws and Morgantown's furious 28-7 second-half run brought them all the way back at 40-40 with 2:29 to play.
But that was the last point the Mohigans scored. Lathon hit a tough leaner, Colasante's short jumper rolled around and out, and Park hit enough free throws down the stretch to ice it.