CHARLESTON - Wheeling Park coach Meredith Dailer and her staff have really put an emphasis on its team man-to-man defense this year. On Saturday, its hard work and preparation paid off.
Wheeling Park, ranked No. 8 in class AAA, opened the second quarter with a 15-0 run and stymied No.5 George Washington with its pressure, up-in-your-face, man defense to cruise to a 64-49 victory in the first game of the Capital City Showcase at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Complex.
"We have really worked hard on our man-to-man defense and it is really starting to show," Dailer said.
Coming into the second quarter, Park (10-0) held a miniscule 17-14 lead. But, Park went on a 15-0 run with Emily Puskarich donating 10 points, Krista Crawshaw and Caitlyn Taylor sinking two free throws apiece and Marissa Tucker connecting on one free throw during the run. More impressively, Park held GW (6-2) scoreless until one minute and ten seconds left in the quarter when Alexa Peoples hit a short jumper.
At the half, Park held a commanding 37-18 lead after forcing 12 first-half turnovers and GW never got any closer than 10 points.
The previous trip to Charleston didn't fare so well for Dailer and her team as it suffered an opening-round playoff loss to eventual Class AAA runner up South Charleston in the 2011 girls' state tournament. But, Dailer was pleased with her team's effort in a situation that resembled the state tournament.
"We knew we were going to face quite a challenge because GW is one of the best programs in the state," Dailer said. "It was really about us coming to play in the morning, waking up out of a hotel room and I think the kids really stepped up this morning."
"We came down (Friday) evening, ate dinner, and got the kids ready for bed. This morning, we had breakfast and came over so this was very much like the state tournament in March."
When asked if she was giving her team an early opportunity to prepare for the state tournament, Dailer replied with a smile "We are going to take things a game at a time because we still have quite a bit of season left. But, our eyes are on the prize."
Puskarich led the charge for Park with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, while Crawshaw posted a double-double of her own with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"I just have great teammates and we looked for what was open, Puskarich said. "Everyone contributed and it was just a great team effort."
"This was a good opportunity to showcase our team and I think we really did a good job of doing that."
"In practice, we worked on denying the ball and just working hard," Crawshaw replied when asked about her preparation for guarding Peoples and Kelly Jo Harrison. "It was tough guarding them but I just tried to battle back."
Peoples led GW with 14 points and six rebounds.
"If you look at the shooting percentages from the total field goals to three-point percentage to free throw percentage, we were even," said GW coach Jamie LaMaster. "Unfortunately, we were outscored 20-4 in the second quarter because I felt we played good in the other three quarters. But, I told the kids that you have to play 32 minutes and if you don't then you are going to get beat every time like today."