Cardinals Clip Golden Eagles, Claim First MEC Tournament Title

  WJU Athletics
  Monday, March 5, 2018 9:31 AM
  WJU News, Athletics

Charleston, WV

WTRF Game Highlights
WTRF 1-on-1 with Coach Sancomb

The Cardinals proved to be the toughest team of the weekend! Wheeling Jesuit received eight-straight Brent Pegram points in the opening five minutes to take the lead and never gave it up against the University of Charleston for the 80-65 victory in the Mountain East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon.

mec-champs.jpgAfter Pegram's eight points in a row, Haywood Highsmith followed with seven-straight of his own as the Cardinals (26-5) slowly built the lead to 12 points, 28-16, at half. Charleston (18-13) pulled to within five points, 51-45, with 11:53 left, but WJU slammed the door shut on any comeback as it answered with the game-deciding 11-2 spurt and the margin never was under double digits again.
With the victory, the Cardinals claimed their first MEC title and secured a spot in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional for the third year in a row.

"I am really proud of our guys. We played three games in three days and our guys rose to the occasion. We played very good defense again as it is very important to who we are as a team," explained WJU head coach Danny Sancomb. "We moved the ball and took good shots the entire game. It was our 26th win, which equals 100 win in our three seniors' careers.
I dedicated this year to my dad (who is fighting cancer) and I am so excited for these guys. I pushed them to work hard each and and I wasn't always nice about it. We had to flip our roster this year and it says a lot about this team we have this year (with this success)."
As he was the MEC Player of the Year, Highsmith was voted by the media in attendance as the Tournament Most Valuable Player. He averaged 24 points and 14 rebounds in the three WJU victories. The forward powered his best shooting game of the weekend for the title as he was 10 of 21 with a pair of treys and 9 of 11 free throws for 31 points to go with 11 boards, four assists, three steals and a block.
"It (taking the title) means a lot as we have always been one of the top ranked teams (in the league), but didn't make it past the Tournament Semis. We were the tougher team all this weekend  and it means a lot bringing the championship back to Wheeling," stated Highsmith.
Highsmith was joined by both Pegram and Preston Boswell on the All-Tournament Team. After hitting for his first-year high on Friday night, Pegram was near miss in the title tilt. The point guard downed 8 of 10 attempts, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and 8 of 9 foul shots for a 29-point contest. He also added four assists, two steals and two rebounds.

"His attitude and spirit is that of a junior or senior. I hope any of my three boys have half the desire he has. He is good because of his attitude and being as tough as you can be. He's a winner," commented Sancomb on Pegram.
Following games of 19 and 23, Boswell hit for only eight points, but he started the final nail in the Charleston coffin with a running jumper at 5:08 for an 8-0 stretch.
Boswell said afterwards, "We knew we had to get stops and rebounds. We pride ourselves on our toughness, rebounding and defense."
The Cardinal duo – Highsmith and Pegram – accounted for the team's opening 20 points and assisted each other on four of the eight buckets. Charleston, though, held close as the game was 20-16 with 8:04 left in the opening stanza. WJU widened the margin from there with a 12-3 tally over the next 5:01 for a 32-19 lead capped by a fastbreak Highsmith triple off a Pegram pass.
Once again, WJU cleaned up the glass to a tune of 35-27 with 11 coming on the offensive side of the equation. Jeremiah Wilson was a big part of it with nine points and eight rebounds, including four offensive. The Cardinals also forced their opponents into 14 turnovers to only eight of their own.
In his final game, Charleston's Kier Anderson paced his team with 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting.
WJU is the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Region and will play No. 6 seed West Chester in Petersburg, Va. The date and times will be released soon.


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