As the tip went up, the Cardinals raced in front with a bit of a déjà vu kind start. Wheeling Jesuit received a pair of Kyle Ritz 3-pointers and scored the game’s first dozen points and used inside power to overtake West Virginia Wesleyan, 67-51, in the Mountain East Conference Quarterfinal Friday afternoon.
As was the case in the Feb. 20 meeting with the opening 13 points, WJU (28-2) asserted itself in the opening minutes and never looked back. The Cardinals dominated inside by a 46-10 point margin behind Ritz and Haywood Highsmith, who combined for 35 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots.
With the victory, WJU moves on to Saturday night’s MEC Semifinals. The Cardinals face the winner of the Notre Dame College/Fairmont State matchup in an 8:15 p.m. tip-off at the Charleston Civic Center.
“It was a hard-fought game as West Virginia Wesleyan plays extremely hard. The game was what we expected it to be as we knew we had to work on Tanner (McGrew). The guys did a great job on him,” said WJU head coach Danny Sancomb. “The guys had a bad taste in their mouths from last game (WJU’s regular season finale loss at West Liberty) as they were very dissatisfied with our effort last Saturday.”
The WJU defense held WV Wesleyan’s McGrew, the premiere MEC center, to 12 points, over 10 below his season average. The Cardinals also held the Bobcats to under 30-percent (14 of 47) and won the battle on the boards, 38-30, along with seven team blocked shots.
“We were very aggressive attacking today and made a concentrated effort to attack them the entire game,” noted Sancomb.
Along with netting eight of the team’s opening 14 points, Ritz finished with a team-high 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting and three treys. The junior added six rebounds and three blocked shots.
“We were so disappointed Kyle didn’t get anything from the league this year. He is a big time player and is one of the nation’s most efficient shooting and gets the job done,” pointed out the Cardinals coach.
Highsmith posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds over the opening 20 minutes. The sophomore All-MEC First Team honoree posted 16 points on 8 of 10 from the floor and 13 caroms.
“We came out and did a good job. Anybody on the team can score and today, we had guys like (Dominique) Tham do that for us,” said Highsmith.
The freshman forward Tham made the most of his 14 minutes with eight points on 4 of 5 shooting, five rebounds and blocked a shot.
“Dom is an important piece of our team and future of this program next year. He is a real warrior inside,” stressed Sancomb.
Sophomore guard Pat Moseh added 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the backcourt.
After scoring the opening 12 points of the game, WJU saw McGrew cut the margin to eight points, 14-6, midway through the stanza. The Cardinals finished the final seven minutes strong by outscoring the Bobcats, 13-6, for a 37-19 intermission tally.
West Virginia Wesleyan had one final surge to within a dozen, 49-37, at 11:37 left in the contest. WJU, though, did not allow its opponent any closer as Tham made a hard-inside bucket over McGrew at 5:37 left for a 19-point difference, 59-40.
“We had goals at the beginning of the year to win this tournament. We will have to play better tomorrow than we did today,” finished Sancomb.
West Virginia Wesleyan College vs Wheeling Jesuit University3/4/16 12:00 PM at Charleston Civic Center ColiseumAt Charleston Civic Center ColiseumWHEELING JESUIT UNIVERSITY 67, WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE 51WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE (17-13)Tanner McGrew 4-15 4-6 12; Fred Brondsted 2-9 4-5 10; Clay Todd 2-3 3-6 9;Mo Berchie 3-7 1-2 9; Garrett Grantham 2-6 2-2 7; Ja'Sahn Johnson 1-5 2-2 4;J.R. Kerr 0-0 0-0 0; Soren Dossing 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 14-47 16-23 51.WHEELING JESUIT UNIVERSITY (28-2)Kyle Ritz 8-11 0-0 19; Haywood Highsmith 8-10 0-4 16; Pat Moseh 5-9 1-3 11;Dominique Tham 4-5 0-0 8; Justin Fritts 3-8 0-0 7; Eric Siefert 2-10 0-1 5;Drake Goddard 0-3 1-2 1; Matt Stewart 0-0 0-0 0; Malik Grandy 0-0 0-0 0;Chase Lawson 0-2 0-0 0; Tim Goff 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-58 2-10 67.West Virginia Wesleyan College 19 32 - 51Wheeling Jesuit University.... 37 30 - 673-point goals--West Virginia Wesleyan College 7-18 (Fred Brondsted 2-7; ClayTodd 2-2; Mo Berchie 2-4; Garrett Grantham 1-3; Soren Dossing 0-2), WheelingJesuit University 5-19 (Kyle Ritz 3-4; Justin Fritts 1-4; Eric Siefert 1-6;Chase Lawson 0-2; Pat Moseh 0-1; Haywood Highsmith 0-2). Fouled out--WestVirginia Wesleyan College-None, Wheeling Jesuit University-None.Rebounds--West Virginia Wesleyan College 30 (Tanner McGrew 11), WheelingJesuit University 38 (Haywood Highsmith 13). Assists--West Virginia WesleyanCollege 11 (Mo Berchie 5), Wheeling Jesuit University 17 (Justin Fritts 5).Total fouls--West Virginia Wesleyan College 15, Wheeling Jesuit University19. Technical fouls--West Virginia Wesleyan College-None, Wheeling JesuitUniversity-None.