GLEN DALE - The plan all along according to Morgantown girls' basketball coach Adam Henkins, was to pressure John Marshall from one baseline to the other for 32 minutes Thursday night. When the Mohigans pulled into town and found out Monarchs star Kylie Howard would not play, that simply reaffirmed the coach's initial thoughts.
Leah Taylor scored 19 of her game-high 21 points in the first half as Morgantown (12-4) used an 11-0 run spanning the end of the first quarter and start of the second to springboard it to a 72-52 victory.
''We won by 20, but Howard is a 22-point scorer so she makes the difference (Thursday),'' Henkins said. ''In my mind she's the state player of the year and that's who I will vote for. I already have my mind made up.
''I thought we did a good job running the floor and pressuring them into some turnovers. They made a nice little run in the third quarter and going into the fourth, but I thought we did a nice job holding our composure and finishing them off.''
Howard, who is the reigning Gatorade West Virginia Softball Player of the Year, tore the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) in her right knee in a loss to Parkersburg South on Tuesday and will see a surgeon early next week. Her basketball career is finished, and Howard's status for the softball season, where the Monarch will try to defend their Class AAA state title, is in severe peril.
''Obviously with the loss of Kylie, I feel bad for her,'' John Marshall coach Mark McCormick said. ''She's having a great year, she's playing the way she is and we're playing well.
''There's a need right now for someone to step up.''
The Monarchs (10-6), who lost their fourth in a row, stayed within seven after the first quarter but couldn't stem the tide in the second. Morgantown forced 18 first-half turnovers (25 for the game) and got 19 points from Taylor and another 10 points and nine rebounds from Caroline Colombo before halftime.
''Leah Taylor had an awesome game. I can't say enough about her,'' Henkins said. Caroline Colombo had monster boards - I think she was double-digit rebounds, which is good for her and good for us.
''That was one of our focuses because they're so big inside with (Emily) Winters and (Tori) Derrow.''
Winters had perhaps her best game of the season as she got free for a team-high 13 points and also pulled down nine rebounds. Derrow netted nine points for the Monarchs, as did Sissy George.
''I thought Emily played very well and that's a step in the right direction for her,'' McCormick said.
Other than that though, there wasn't much for the Monarchs. Morgantown had a lot to do with that.
''Fullcourt man-to-man was very good for us and I was very happy with the defensive intensity we had,'' Henkins said. ''I think we did make them play faster.
''They even had us broken a couple times but we were able to make them throw it just a little bit too high, or make them go just a little bit too fast.''
McCormick agreed, saying ''we're dribbling and having two or three girls trying to throw off the dribble. That's just not us.''
Tiara Ireland came off the Morgantown bench to notch 18 points, while Taylor added six steals and four assists. Colombo finished with a game-high 12 rebounds.