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Offensive woes hurt Marshall in 71-60 loss to Florida Atlantic

— by David Walsh

Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni made no bones about it. Make shots or else.

“You shoot 37 (percent), 14 (percent from three) you’re not going to win games,” D’Antoni said Saturday after Florida Atlantic defeated the Thundering Herd, 71-60, in front of 1,721 fans at Abessinio Court at FAU Arena in Boca Raton, Fla. “They’re not bad shots. As good as what they’re taking, we’ve got to find a way to get the ball in the hole.”

Marshall connected on just 23-of-62 shots (37.1 percent) and 3 ofv21 from deep. FAU made 25-of-58 shots and was 7 of 22 from three.

With its third straight win, FAU leads the Conference USA at 4-2, 11-8 overall. The Owls are a half-game ahead of Charlotte and Middle Tennessee. They are No. 4 in three-point shooting in the league.

Marshall (7-12, 0-6) has dropped nine in a row. The skid matches the longest the Herd has endured since D’Antoni’s first season in 2014-15.

The Herd’s largest lead Saturday was one point at 23-22 with 3:48 left in the first half. The Owls steadily pulled away in the second and their largest lead was 69-55 with 1:57 left.

The win at The Burrow gives FAU the regular-season sweep over the Herd. The Owls won the first meeting 90-77 on Jan. 8.

Alijah Martin led the Owls with 14 points. Michael Forrest and Bryan Greenlee added 12 each. Johnell Davis had 10 off the bench.

Taevion Kinsey, the Herd’s top scorer, led again with 21, but he made just 7-of-21 shots (1-of-5 from three). Darius George added 12 off the bench in 21 minutes. He shot 5-of-7. They were the only players in double figures.

In his postgame talk with the media, one could sense Kinsey’s frustration.

“We’re tired of losing,” he said. “I tell the guys the same thing. We’ve got to try to get over that hump. I take every bullet. Continue to fight.”

D’Antoni’s frustration showed through as well.

“At critical moments we’re not making big plays,” he said. “I don’t know where it went. I can’t ask them to play any harder. We’ll have to win other ways … shut people down, steal the ball. I don’t know where it happens. I wish it would hurry up.”

Marshall returns to action Thursday at home against Middle Tennessee. Tip is 7 p.m. at Cam Henderson Center. UAB visits next Saturday at 7 p.m.

Marshall learned earlier this week its game at Southern Miss has been rescheduled for February 21 by the league. COVID-19 issues for Southern Miss caused the postponement on January 1.

Kinsey, who is from Columbus, now has 1,738 points for his career. He’s the 11th player in Herd history to reach that plateua. He just passes Leo Byrd (1956-59) to get to No. 11.

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Parkersburg South makes 13 triples, sinks Parkersburg, 83-56

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Parkersburg South boys basketball coach believes his team’s offense has progressed into much more than a perimeter-oriented attack this season.

Yet Fallon is plenty aware the Patriots are one of the more proficient outside shooting teams across the state, and that was on display Friday when they protected their home court in an 83-56 victory over Parkersburg.

Parkersburg South (10-1) made nine 3-pointers in the opening half and 13 for the game to ease its way to a regular season sweep of the Big Reds, who fell to 6-7.

“We feel comfortable with the kids we have, but it’s kind of different with this group in that we’re not really relying totally on the three-point shot, like some teams we’ve had in the past,” Fallon said. “But we still like to shoot it. We’re a little more balanced-oriented overall.”

Both teams clicked offensively in the opening quarter, which the Patriots finished with a 20-18 lead.

Ashton Mooney and Aiden Blake each made a triple early in the second quarter, leaving PSHS with a 28-20 advantage.

Moments later, Jackson Smith connected from beyond the arc on three consecutive possessions to score nine straight points himself and leave Fallon’s team with a 39-22 lead 2:52 before halftime.

“What’s really crazy this year we’re trying to get more points in the paint,” Fallon said. “When we go back and look at the stat sheets, there’s some games we only make two or three threes and we’re getting points in the paint. We feel that’s why we’re in the situation where we’re at, because we have kids that can flat out shoot it, too. When they start helping up off of Ashton and Cyrus [Traugh], then we’re able to get clean looks. Jackson Smith can shoot the ball as well as anybody in the state.”

Austin Fleming had back-to-back baskets inside late in the opening half to help the Big Reds cut their deficit to 43-31 at the break.

Mooney opened the second-half scoring with a 3 and the aggressiveness of Traugh paid off with six points in the third quarter, allowing the Patriots to up their lead to 59-43.

Traugh continued to attack the basket in the fourth quarter, and it helped lead to an 18-point effort that featured him making 10-of-11 free throws. His conventional three-point play left the Patriots with a 67-50 advantage at the 5:35 mark, and PSHS continued to build on it down the stretch.

“South is very good and they can get up and down and score,” Parkersburg head coach Bryan Crislip said. “If they score 83 points, they’re going to win. I need the game to be 50-55. That’s where we can win, scoring 50 or about 60.”

Thirteen of South’s 28 field goals were triples, while the Big Reds made only three shots from long range.

Mooney led the Patriots with 21 points in their 10th straight win since a season-opening loss to Dublin Coffman of Ohio. Jackson Smith scored 15 on five 3s and Devin Hershberger added 10 points. Caleb Schaffer and Hershberger had eight rebounds apiece to lead all players.

“the second quarter was big and in the third quarter, we told our kids ‘that first 3 minutes is always so important,’” Fallon said. “I thought we set the tone in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter.”

Fleming led all players with 24 points and added a team-high seven boards in defeat. Josh Kopec scored 10 points for the Big Reds before leaving the game with what appeared to be a significant injury that Crislip fears is a torn ACL.

“Some teams get lucky breaks, but we haven’t gotten any lucky breaks,” Crislip said. “I have a feeling Josh is done for the year. Out of our five seniors, Bryson Singer is probably out another four or five games, Josh Kopec is probably done for the year and Luke Fries broke his foot the other day.

“You go into a rivalry game with only three kids really having varsity experience and Josh being our go-to guy that scores about 16 [points] a game, then he’s done and we’re down to two kids with major varsity experience. It’s a tough battle.”

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University rallies from 11-point halftime deficit to down GW in OT

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Staring at an 11-point halftime deficit against the defending Class AAAA state champions from George Washington, University head coach Joe Schmidle had a simple message for his team in the locker room.

“Honestly, before we came out I said, ‘We are going to win this game’. I didn’t know how, but I knew we were going to win. They did. I told them three or four times, every time we cut the lead. To the end, I told them we were going to tie it up, go into overtime and win. And they did,” Schmidle said.

University rallied past the Patriots to win in overtime, 68-60. The teams split a pair of regular season meetings. With the win, the Hawks improved to 6-6 after being on the wrong end of close games against quality competition in the first half of the season.

“I think it is a statement win. It is a confidence builder. We have been close to beating some really good teams. We just haven’t been able to get over the hump. We have found ways to lose. Winning is a habit and winning is a mentality. You either have a winners mentality or a losers mentality. They learned how to win today. I think that is going to do a lot for our confidence going forward.”

George Washington (7-3) used a 22-5 run between the first and second quarters to erase an early seven-point deficit. GW led 34-23 at halftime.

However, University senior center Aaron Forbes was nearly unstoppable in the second half. After collecting two fouls early in the first quarter, Forbes sat for the remainder of the first half. He went on to score all 20 of his points in the second half and overtime.

“It just shows you how big of a factor he can be when he is on the floor. Credit to him for being able to play the whole second half with foul trouble. He only played three minutes and change in the first half.

“The reason he had a big game was that our guards finally bought in on what we were trying to do and were patient enough to get the ball into the low post to Aaron and Garrison [Kisner].”

UHS whittled the 11-point halftime deficit to seven points [50-43] at the end of the third quarter. The Hawks allowed just six points in the fourth stanza and scored the final five points in regulation to send the game into overtime.

University never trailed in the extra frame.

“The kids did a decent enough job of making their free throws down the stretch. We were fortunate enough to be in the double bonus at the start of the overtime. They just didn’t have an answer for Forbes and Kisner down low.”

Kisner scored 17 points and Elija Jackson added a dozen for University. Ben Nicol led the Patriots with 20 points. Zane McCarty scored 17 points for GW, while Brendan Hoffman added 12.

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Wheeling Central runs win streak to ten games, defeating Winfield 70-51

— Story by Taylor Kennedy

WHEELING, W.Va. — The Wheeling Central Maroon Knights (10-1) used an offensive barrage from behind the arc to hand the Winfield Generals (8-4) their fourth loss in five games, 70-51.

Central head coach Mel Stephens collected a second consecutive win over his son Chris Stephens.

“I thought we played well,” Mel Stephens said. “We came out and shot the ball well at the beginning. That always helps if you can get out to that early lead. That forces the other team to play from behind a little bit.

“I’m pleased with the victory. Chris has done a great job down there. They’re going to win a lot of games. I think we just got them on, got them on the right day.”

Mel Stephens did not think much of the anticipated matchup against his son. He knows that off-the-court will always be there, but once the ball starts dribbling, it’s go time.

“We talk and joke around, but during the game, it’s a game where we’re trying to win, and he’s trying to win,” Stephens stated. “I thought my kids really came out and played well.”

Wheeling Central jumped out to an early 22-11 first-quarter lead thanks to six triples. Three came from sophomore Leyton Toepfer.

Winfield would respond in the second quarter by outscoring the Maroon Knights 19-15 in the second quarter. Wheeling Central led 37-30 at the intermission.

The Maroon Knights would come out firing in the third quarter. They started the second half on a 17-2 run with Toepfer, Ryan Reasbeck, and Caleb Ratcliffe contributing.

Wheeling Central would outscore the Generals 32-21 in the second half.

“We tried to make a couple of adjustments at halftime to go against their zone,” Mel Stephens noted. “We thought there might be some holes in the middle if we cut through there. I thought we shared the ball. Paxton Marling, except for the no-look-over-the-head pass, played well for us. He made some nice passes to get guys easy buckets.”

Wheeling Central played one of its better games this season, but turnovers plagued the Maroon Knights throughout the game. Mel Stephens did not see his team protect the ball consistently against Winfield.

“We were a little bit nonchalant with the ball,” Stephens said. “We concentrate and focus on making good passes, but a couple of those today were lazy passes. A couple of those were just good defensive plays on Winfield’s part.”

Reasbeck picked up a nomination for the 2022 McDonald’s All-American game last week. The senior guard showed why he deserved a nomination by leading all scorers with 23 points.

“He’s averaging around 20 points a game for us, but it’s the other little things that he’s doing that he hasn’t done as much in the past,” Stephens noted. “Rebounding, taking control of the offense, and getting guys slowed down to get us into whatever we’re trying to run. He’s playing pretty solid defense this year.”

Toepfer had the hot hand all afternoon. The sophomore guard piled in 20 points, including six triples. Stephens believes his hot hand allowed Wheeling Central to take control of the game.

“That’s the reason why we got off to a good start,” Stephens stated. “He knocks down shots. Leyton is a terrific shooter out there. I think he sometimes overthinks that, but he can knock down shots out there. Sometimes he wants to drive the ball a little bit too much. I’d like to see him shoot. He’s got a nice little game where he can shoot it from out there, and he can put it on the floor and go to the hoop.”

Senior Seth Shilot led Winfield with 12 points, all of which came in the first half. Juniors Josh Cook and Ross Mussick each scored eight points. Both combined for four triples.

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Strong second quarter propels Morgantown over Martinsburg

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An 11-0 run to start the second quarter propelled Morgantown past Martinsburg, 80-51 Saturday afternoon. Leading 12-9 after the opening eight minutes, the Mohigans outscored the Bulldogs 27-9 in the second quarter to build a 39-18 halftime lead.

“I thought we got good shots in the first quarter. But we were 3-for-15 in the first quarter,” said Morgantown head coach Dave Tallman. “We haven’t played in eight days and we have played two games in three weeks. Martinsburg had a tough loss last night so I thought they came out ready to play. They played hard so I give them credit too.”

Alec Poland led the Mohigans (7-3) and all scorers with 23 points.  

“He is forty years old so it is men amongst boys out there. I thought he ran the floor really hard. He got position on their guys.”

Sophomore point guard Sha-Ron Young posted a double-double with 20 points and ten assists.

“I though Sha-Ron had his best game yet. He had ten assists and two turnovers,” Tallman said. “So he did a great job finding [Poland] and those other guys when they ran hard.”

The Mohigans have played just twice in the month of January due to numerous weather-related postponements.

“Now we get to play. We get to play three times next week. So we are just really looking forward to getting out there and playing.”

Avion Blackwood led Martinsburg (4-5) with 20 points. K’Marion Dowe added ten points for the Bulldogs.

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Ihlenfeld leads formation of unit to combat healthcare fraud

WHEELING, W.Va. — United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld said when he previously served in his current role from 2010-2016 he knew healthcare fraud was an issue, but after his time in the private sector the last couple of years, the time has really shed light on what was happening.

Ihlenfeld, who was named United States Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia in 2021 after serving in the West Virginia Senate, launched a new initiative to combat health care fraud in the state this week.

William Ihlenfeld

State and federal agencies gathered at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Wheeling for the first meeting of the Mountaineer Health Care Fraud Strike Force, a unit that will take a data-driven approach to uncovering waste and abuse. Representatives from seven different agencies discussed fraudulent billing patterns and new targets were identified as a result.

“I realized it was even greater in scope than I had realized previously,” Ihlenfeld told MetroNews about being in the private sector. “I know the U.S. Attorney’s office needed to do more to combat this problem.”

In addition to its analytical work, the Strike Force will engage with providers and insurers so that there is a better understanding on how to recognize and report health care fraud, a release said.

“To make sure that we’re on the same page and if they see something that they suspect is fraudulent and violates federal criminal law or federal civil law, that they are contacting us. Allowing us to help them with the investigation and possibly with the prosecution,” Ihlenfeld said.

Ihlenfeld also stressed to MetroNews the importance of contact with whistleblowers and the impact that they can have upon uncovering fraud. He said whistleblowers have opportunities to report fraud and could also receive money from what is recovered in the case.

According to his office, last year, a whistleblower was awarded $10 million in the matter of U.S. ex rel. Longo v. Wheeling Hospital, Inc.

A new hotline, email address and mailing address have been established to allow for the reporting of potential fraud. Anyone with information may call (304) 234-7711, send an email to [email protected], or mail correspondence to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Attn: Mountaineer HCF Strike Force, P.O. Box 591, Wheeling, WV 26003.

Members of the Mountaineer Health Care Fraud Strike Force include agents, officers and prosecutors from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense, the West Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the West Virginia Offices of Insurance Commission, and the United States Attorney’s Office.

Ihlenfeld said cracking down on healthcare fraud will impact all West Virginians.

“All West Virginians pay the price in the form of higher insurance rates. Anyone that has insurance withheld from their paycheck every month to pay their premium, they don’t like that. No one likes to see that coming out of their paycheck,” he said.

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Mountaineers come undone late, suffer third straight loss at No. 18 Texas Tech, 78-65

West Virginia stuck with No. 18 Texas Tech for better than 35 minutes of Saturday’s matchup at United Supermarkets Arena.

However, for the second straight game, the Mountaineers faltered down the stretch, and the Red Raiders closed on a 19-9 run over the final 4:04 to send West Virginia to its third consecutive loss, 78-65.

Veteran head coach Bob Huggins felt his team’s inability to execute what it was asked to run offensively played a large part in the outcome and the Mountaineers’ 17 turnovers, 10 of which came after halftime.

“A lot of them are unforced and we didn’t run what we practiced,” Huggins said. “I went over it two days in practice. We went over it before the game and during every timeout and they still never ran what I asked them to run.”

The Mountaineers were also plagued by a lack of rebounding, with Texas Tech holding a 39-29 advantage on the glass, including 17-8 on the offensive end.

“We just give people way too many shots,” said Huggins, who watched the Red Raiders attempt 59 field goals to the Mountaineers’ 52.

There was little flow throughout the contest, with 50 fouls whistled between the two teams. Thirty fouls were called on West Virginia, which had four players — Jalen Bridges, Malik Curry, Gabe Osabuohien and Pauly Paulicap — disqualified for fouling out.

The Red Raiders converted 25-of-36 free throws, while the Mountaineers (13-5, 2-4) continued their trend of improved free-throw shooting over the last month and made 18-of-22 attempts.

“We just have to play through it. We’re at the Power 5 Divison I level, so we have to play through the touchy fouls and calls, and all that,” said WVU guard Taz Sherman, who scored a team-high 21 points. “Have to control what you can control and play through it. It’s a contact game and fully physical, especially in a conference game like this with two teams that have the stigma that we do as defensive teams.”

Sherman’s 3-pointer with 6:21 to play put WVU in front for the first time in the second half, 54-53.

Terrence Shannon Jr. answered with a conventional three-point play, and Bryce Williams cashed in on a wide open triple to give the Red Raiders (15-4, 5-2) a five-point lead with 5:01 remaining.

For a good portion of the contest, the Mountaineers utilized a rarely seen before 1-2-2 zone in an effort to force the Red Raiders to make shots from the perimeter.

“We really hadn’t implemented in it in a game yet,” Sherman said. “We knew they were better drivers than shooters so we were trying something new. It worked to an extent, but second-chance points and not communicating always on switches hurt us in that zone.”

Still, the Mountaineers to were within a possession momentarily after Dimon Carrigan scored on a second-chance layup, but Shannon answered with two 3s on consecutive possessions to give his team a 65-56 advantage with 3:16 remaining and all but seal the verdict.

“This is not a very good perimeter shooting club, so as I watched their games, they score the ball in the paint,” Huggins said. “So I thought that if we played that 1-2-2 zone and kind of packed it and didn’t get it spread out too much that it would be good. It was good. I don’t know, how hard is it to bump? My guy, say he back cuts, I take him to the next guy and give it to him and say, ‘Take him,’ and pop back out and get a guy. We’ve done that before and I’ve never had guys think that was hard to do.”

WVU got as close as six with 1:45 left on a pair of Curry free throws, but Kevin McCullar’s foul shots and a Shannon dunk in transition wrapped up the Red Raiders’ win.

Tech used an early 11-2 surge to overcome a 7-3 deficit and lead by five on Shannon’s transition bucket. The Mountaineers offered a strong response and went on top 21-19 on Curry’s three-point play, but the Red Raiders answered with seven straight points to lead by five following Kevin Obanor’s layup.

Tech eventually led 33-25, before Sherman scored five straight points, and the Mountaineers settled for a 36-34 deficit at halftime.

WVU made only one field goal over nearly the first 6 minutes of the second half, but a 7-2 run in 1:14 featuring two Paulicap baskets and Bridges’ triple enabled the Mountaineers to trail 46-45 with 12:47 left.

Sherman made 8-of-15 shots and had five rebounds in his highest-scoring effort since a win over Kent State on December 12.

“I’m starting to get my wind back being in the gym and at practice,” Sherman said. “It was mainly just dealing with day to day injuries we all go through as athletes.”

The fifth-year guard did, however, have six turnovers.

“Their length and wingspan kind of bothered us a little bit, but I have to get stronger with the ball since I’m regaining strength back,” Sherman said.

Curry, with 11 points, was West Virginia’s only other double-figure scorer. Curry has made all 23 of his free-throw attempts over the last three games.

Sean McNeil was held to half of his season scoring average and finished with seven points on 2-of-7 shooting.

“We put not really a set, more a motion kind of thing where we get a lot of screening for [Sherman and McNeil],” Huggins said. “I take that back. We were supposed to have a lot of screening for those guys. It didn’t happen.”

Shannon led all players with 23 points. Obanor added 18 and Williams scored 13.

Six Red Raiders had at least four rebounds, with six apiece from Davion Warren and Adonis Arms tying Osabuohien for game-high honors.

The Mountaineers look to avoid a fourth straight setback at 8 p.m. Wednesday when they welcome Oklahoma.

“The message basically was you’re going to run what I tell you to run and what we practice, or you’re going to come sit on the bench and watch,” Huggins said. “What else is there?”

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The Dickinson Group to look at solar, wind, reforestation projects in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dickinson Group Executive Chair Nancy Payne Bruns said given the challenges facing the economy and climate in West Virginia, now was the time to pursue renewable energy projects in the Mountain State.

The Dickinson Group, which has more than 200 years of operation in natural resources, real estate and banking sectors in West Virginia, announced this week a joint venture with Kentucky-based Edelen Renewables to pursue those projects and other green initiatives in West Virginia.

Nancy Payne Bruns

The venture will focus on identifying sites in West Virginia for potential development of solar, wind or reforestation projects.

“We think generationally, not just three or four years at a time. We wanted to make sure we did it right. We decided on Edelen Renewables as our partner going forward,” Bruns told MetroNews.

The Dickinson Group has created a new company – Dickinson Renewables – to spearhead the business’s solar, wind and reforestation initiatives, a release stated. They will do so in partnership with Kentucky-based Edelen Renewables.

Bruns told MetroNews that they have a commitment to West Virginia as landowners to continue to bring in new industry and provide jobs.

“We’re not giving up on coal for sure but we wanted to do the right thing for the climate and environment going forward,” she said.

Adam Edelen, Founder & CEO of Edelen Renewables said in a release, “Our mission is to bring the promise of renewable energy to the people and communities that powered the industrial development of this country for a century, our miners and coal communities.”

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Federal agencies release report on Martinsburg PFAS presence

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A new report from federal agencies details the presence of substances in Martinsburg as well as efforts to mitigate the issue.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry studied the human impact of polyfluoroalkyl substances in Martinsburg and Berkeley County. Officials first detected PFAS in the Big Springs Well in February 2014, although levels did not exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s level at the time. The agencies said the substances came from firefighting foam used by the Air National Guard at the Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base.

The EPA issued a health advisory in 2016 related to two compounds: perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid. The change forced Martinsburg officials to shut off the city’s Big Springs Well and water plant until a treatment system could be installed. Water production shifted to the Kilmer Springs Water Plant until upgrades could be completed.

Martinsburg officials said the city did not provide the public with drinking water that violated the EPA’s standards.

The city has completed upgrades to the Big Springs Well. The U.S. Air Force reimbursed the city $4.9 million for the work.

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Covid hospitalizations near 1,000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia COVID-19 hospitalizations grew to 997 in updated numbers released Saturday by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The pandemic high for hospitalizations is 1,012 patients which occurred on Sept. 24, 2021. That previous high could fall in Sunday’s report.

The DHHR also reported Saturday that there were 216 patients in ICU with 118 being treated on ventilators.

There were 14 kids in the hospital with COVID Saturday.

All but 9 West Virginia counties are currently red on the daily alert map indicating a high rate of spread.

There were 6,500 new cases confirmed Saturday taking current active cases to 18,925.

There were no additional deaths reported. Deaths remain at 5,609.

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