Wheeling Jesuit Tops Charleston For MEC Tournament Title

The Free Press WV

Wheeling Jesuit 80, Charleston 65

In its fifth season of existence, the Mountain East Conference has its fifth different men’s basketball tournament champion.

Wheeling Jesuit went on a 9-2 run over a three-minute span late in the second half to salt away an 80-65 victory over No. 5 Charleston in the tourney championship on Sunday afternoon at the Charleston Civic Center, marking the third time the second seed has won the title.

Also, for the fifth consecutive year, the top seed failed to win the tournament. In fact, only twice has the top seed played in the championship game: West Liberty (2014) and Fairmont (2017).

Wheeling Jesuit (26-5), which was coming off three consecutive seasons of semifinal round elimination, earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament. The tournament selection show is set for 10:30 p.m. Sunday night during which the host and seeds will be announced. The top eight teams in the region will continue postseason play, with West Liberty expected to join Wheeling Jesuit in the Atlantic Region Tournament.

“I said all week that we have a good team,” Wheeling Jesuit coach Danny Sancomb said. “I’m so proud of the guys.”

The Golden Eagles (18-13), winners of the inaugural MEC Tournament in 2014, scored the first four points. When Brent Pegram hit the second of his record-setting five 3-pointers to give Wheeling Jesuit a 6-4 lead, the Cardinals didn’t trail again.

“It takes the right player to play in our program,” Sancomb said. “Guys like Brent had to come in at 6 in the morning to hear me yell and scream and running wind sprints.”

Pegram was 5-of-7 from 3-point range tying him with Notre Dame’s Tyree Gaiter for the most 3-pointers in the MEC title game. Gaiter had five against Concord in 2016.

Pegram, a freshman from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, joined teammates Haywood Highsmith and Preston Boswell as players who didn’t leave the court.

He averaged 22.1 minutes per game in the regular season. On Sunday, Pegram (29) and Highsmith (31) combined for 60 points as their team’s only double-figure scorers. Wheeling Jesuit played the tournament without first-team all-MEC player Pat Moseh, and guard Drake Goddard, who averaged 22.9 minutes per game, went down hard with 11:53 remaining, hitting his head on the floor.

Coach Sancomb was unsure of his condition, but Goddard was helped off the floor slowly by a trainer and teammate Ryan Cooper.

Pegram picked up the slack, hitting eight of his 10 total field goal attempts, five of his seven 3-point attempts and eight of his nine free throws.

“I think they were more physical today,” Charleston coach Dwaine Osborne said. “They were quicker to the ball and I thought they absolutely dominated the glass. How do you identify toughness?

“People think about it as physical toughness, but it’s more than that: there’s mental toughness and you look at your ability to execute, handle pressure, handle your emotions … those are toughness things … your ability to do what is asked of you and do it well. I don’t think we were very tough today, including myself.”

The Golden Eagles were led by Keir Anderson (18 points), Austin Howard (14), and Seth O’Neal (12).

Highsmith had his 28th double-double of the season, adding 11 rebounds to his game-high scoring total.

Wheeling Jesuit hit eight of its 17 3-point attempts in the first half, then was 2-of-7 in the second half. The Cardinals also took advantage of their free throw opportunities, hitting 18-of-22 for the game, including 16-of-19 in the critical second half. Charleston was 15-of-18 from the line in the second half.

The record-setting day featured 20 team or individual MEC Tournament championship game records broken or tied.

2018 MEC All-Tournament Team

Tommy Bolte, Concord

Pat Johnson-Agwu, West Virginia State

Dan Monteroso, West Liberty

Lamont McManus, Charleston

Keir Anderson, Charleston

Preston Boswell, Wheeling Jesuit

Brent Pegram, Wheeling Jesuit

MVP-Haywood Highsmith, Wheeling Jesuit

Highest Scoring Average: Tommy Bolte, Concord (39.5 ppg)

Sportsmanship Award: Taiwo Badmus, UVa-Wise

Commissioner’s Heart & Hustle Award: Tommy Bolte, Concord

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