PARKERSBURG -The cloud hovering over the Parkersburg South campus has a glow as the boys basketball team prepares for tonight's Class AAA, Region I contest against University.
A win against the Hawks would match what the girls basketball program has accomplished -and that is qualify for the state tournament in Charleston.
"There is a big, happy cloud over South," Parkersburg South boys basketball coach Mike Fallon said. "The whole South community is close-knit and tight. We support each other and the crowds are similar. With the whole school, there is a sense of togetherness and it's really neat."
File photo by Jeff Baughan
Senior Wes Mitchem, Parkersburg South’s leading scorer, will lead the Patriots against University in a Region I game at 7 p.m. today.
While South's girls team won't play until Thursday night at the Charleston Civic Center, Fallon's unit is seeking a fourth victory in four tries this season against a University outfit that lost to Morgantown 41-35 during last Friday's sectional final.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. today at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center.
"Both teams know what is coming," Fallon said. "University has played Morgantown and Preston, and hasn't switched anything."
University enters with a 16-8 record. South's primary concern is preventing Travis Tomer from filling up the stat sheet. In three losses to the Patriots, the 6-foot-5 senior has averaged 15.0 points per game. For the season, Tomer is scoring at a 17.7 clip.
Another pair of weapons for the Hawks are Tim Dixon and Tevin Dixon, who are averaging 10.4 and 7.0 points per night.
"The Tomer kid shoots the basketball well," Fallon said. "We need to keep their guards out of the lane. If we do that, they will have trouble scoring. Trying to prevent them from getting deep in the paint on us is a big thing."
South's road to the regionals began with a gut-wrenching 64-62 victory against crosstown rival Parkersburg High. The outcome wasn't decided until Doug Dennis' game-winning shot with 1.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Two days later, the fifth-ranked Patriots (20-4) received a combined 40 points and 17 rebounds from Wes Mitchem and Logan Cox in a 60-46 win against Wheeling Park.
"Our inside presence has carried us," Fallon said. "Wes and Logan have started to read that high-low game really well. They played like men against Wheeling Park - they are both very strong and both handle the basketball well."
Fallon figures Cox will be more productive than his 4.3 scoring average indicates in the three previous meetings against University.
"Logan is starting to get confidence and when he gets that, we will be really tough to beat," Fallon said.
Mitchem has been South's mainstay. Against the Hawks, he is averaging 19.3 points per game. In the Patriots' 63-60 win on the Hawks' home floor, he produced a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
More recently in the OVAC's Class 5A championship game at OU-Eastern on Feb. 16, Mitchem knocked down the 3-pointer at the buzzer which lifted South past University 50-47.
"Wes can play with anybody in the state," Fallon said. "He is one of those kids who will do anything you ask of him. He can play inside or outside."
Teammate Doug Dennis poured in 26 points in South's 76-68 win at home in the first meeting between the two programs then answered with a 25-point effort at University.
Fallon figures playing in front of home fans will be to the Patriots' advantage. The atmosphere at the ROAC was purely electric during last week's sectional round.
"This place was unreal during those two sectional games," Fallon said. "Being at home is a major help to our team."