By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The road from Athens to Charleston does not usually include a stop in Wheeling or Shepherdstown.
But that’s the itinerary for the Concord University’s basketball teams this evening, as they shoot for wins that will enable them to visit the Charleston Civic Center for the quarterfinals of this week’s first Mountain East Conference hoops tournaments.
The women’s team (10-16, 8-14 MEC) will be in Wheeling to play the Cardinals of Wheeling Jesuit (14-12, 11-11) at 5:30 p.m. today. The Lady Lions finished ninth and the Cardinals landed eighth in the final regular-season standings.
The Concord men (8-20, 5-17) will get a rematch with the Shepherd Rams (19-9, 14-8) in the Eastern Panhandle at 7 p.m. The Mountain Lions settled 11th in the 12-team league, while the Rams wound up with the fifth seed.
After Saturday’s 70-62 win over UVa-Wise to end the Lady Lions’ regular season, head coach Kenny Osborne said, “It’s just like you hear from the ‘experts’ on TV: You’ve got to get a win, the last regular-season game, to get ready for tournament time.”
The win ended a seven-game losing streak and gave Osborne his 200th win as Concord’s head coach.
It was more than that, said senior Sammi Webster. “It definitely gives us a little bit of momentum,” she said. “We know we can do it. We know we’re good enough.”
The Cardinals took wins of 70-55 and 64-54 from Concord this season.
“So we’re going to go up to Wheeling, and it’s hard to beat a team three times,” Webster said. “We’ve got something for them, and we’re ready.”
“I remember, my freshman year, we weren’t really picked to do that well, and then we turned it on, right at the right time, and ended up going to the semifinals of the tournament, and I really think that’s what this team can do.”
“People have started doubting us, but we’ve never doubted ourselves. We know how good we can be, and we’re going to turn it on for the tournament.”
Concord’s Andrea Bertrand averaged 20 points and six rebounds in the two Wheeling games this season. Freshman Olivia Morgan has taken over at point guard, and dished out nine assists in last Saturday’s victory in Athens.
The Cardinals have won five of their last seven and are one of the league’s best 3-point-shooting teams. Breanna Butler leads WJU offensively with a 14.6 points per game average. This season, she has been successful on 44 percent of her 167 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Concord men have lost four straight and six of their last seven. The Mountain Lions lost to Shepherd in overtime, 97-94, on Jan. 13 in Shepherdstown, then dropped an 89-75 decision on Feb. 22 in Athens.
Men’s head coach Kent McBride said about Shepherd on Saturday evening, “We know we’re going to get respect from them because we lost in overtime up there early in the season. “
“We’ll feel confident, going up there, but they’re a very good basketball team, and we’ve got to prepare and be ready to play. One fortunate thing: We just played them here a week ago, so the scout (report) shouldn’t be too hard.”
Terry Hopewell, Concord’s 6-foot-8 center, has been big statistically, with 32 blocks and four double-doubles in his first season at CU. In the past three games, Hopewell is averaging 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
Concord guard Mike Boyd is eighth in the Mountain East in assists, distributing 4.2 per game. He has made 53 percent of his field-goal tries and provides CU with 14 points per contest on average.
Shepherd lost its last two regular-season games. Saturday’s 74-72 defeat at Fairmont State cost the Rams a first-round bye in the Mountain East tournament.
The Rams have the second-best scoring average in the MEC, recording 84.8 points per game. Brantley Osborne averages 19 points per outing.
The winner of the women’s game will play in Charleston on Thursday, while the men’s quarterfinals are set for Friday at the Civic Center.
—Contact Tom Bone