BUCKHANNON – If the West Virginia Wesleyan – West Virginia State Mountain East Conference First Round Tournament basketball game was a prize fight, it would have been a TKO for the Bobcats in the first round.
With West Virginia State only dressing six players, the Bobcats jumped into an early lead and never looked back as they easily won a 70-54 decision. The game wasn't even as close as the final score indicated as the Bobcats led by as many as 26 in the second half.
It was also a special night for Wesleyan head coach Gary Nottingham as he won his 300th career game as a head coach.
Nottingham won 207 games at Glenville State where he spent 14 seasons and picked up 65 more wins in five years at USC-Spartanburg.
He has currently won 28 games at Wesleyan in his second year.
"A lot of it simply has to do with longevity," remarked Nottingham. "At the same time, to get 300 wins, you have to have talented players and I have been fortunate at all three stops to be surrounded by good players."
West Virginia State was competitive in the first four minutes of the game as they were only down 9-6, but the 'Cats ran off the next 11 points to put the game away.
During the run, Mo Berchie made a jumper, Tanner McGrew hit consecutive lay-ups, Garrett Grantham unleashed a three-pointer and McGrew made another jumper to give Wesleyan a 20-6 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
Wesleyan led by 15 at the break, at 31-16.
The Bobcats controlled the first 15 minutes of the second half as well.
A Fred Brondsted three-pointer gave Wesleyan their biggest lead of the game, at 26 points, at 64-38, with 4:47 remaining in the contest.
With the game already tucked away, West Virginia State outscored Wesleyan by a 16-6 margin in the final four minutes of play.
McGrew led the Bobcats with 31 points and 13 rebounds.
Soren Dossing (pictured) scored 12 points while Grantham added 11.
Berchie ended the game with a weird stat line as he scored four points, grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and had six assists.
Wesleyan outrebounded West Virginia State by a 43-30 margin.
The win was the third in a row for the Bobcats as they improved their record to 17-12.
With the win, they now advance to the MEC Quarter-finals where they will play second seed Wheeling Jesuit Friday in the Charleston Civic Center.
That game will tip-off at noon.
(Photo courtesy of Peter Galarneau Jr.)