WHEELING - Wheeling Park's pressure defense forced John Marshall into a hurry-up mode attack, resulting in 23 Monarchs turnovers Thursday night enabling the Patriots to an impressive 61-50 victory against their West Virginia Section One Class AAA rivals.
Park never trailed after Emily Puskarich's pull-up jumper broke a 4-4 deadlock early in the opening quarter. The victory was the Patriots' 14th against only two defeats. John Marshall, which ventured up Wheeling Park hill carrying a five-game winning streak, saw its record fall to 8-5.
Along with their successful play on the defensive end of the floor, the Patriots looked sharp at times running numerous back door cuts that led to easy baskets throughtout the game.
''We talked a lot about using back door cuts against their defense and I thought we did a really nice job of finding those cutters,'' Patriots coach Meredith Dailer said.
Although Marissa Tucker had just four points in the game, the sophomore guard collected six assists.
''Marissa doesn't get enough credit a lot of times for the job she does for us,'' Dailer said. ''You don't read a lot about assists. But what she does creates a lot of offense for us."
Although struggling with health problems most of this season, Puskarich turned in a solid night by scoring 22 points and helping cause the Monarchs a lot of havoc against the Park press.
''Emily's been having problems with her teeth since Thanksgiving and she is scheduled to undergo oral surgery scheduled (Friday),'' Dailer said. ''We are hoping to get her healthy but, again, the other kids have really stepped up these last few ball games.''
Haley Robb followed Puskarich in the Patriots scoring with 14 points, followed by Kelsi Johnson, who tossed in seven of her nine points during the first quarter.
''Kelsi's coming into her own and getting more confident while working her way into the offense," Dailer pointed out.
First-year John Marshall coach Mark McCormick was disappointed with his guards' problems hanging on to the basketball against Park's quick-handed and quick-footed defenders.
''Give Park credit, they are a good ball club,'' McCormick said. ''What really hurt us in the first half was our turnovers against their pressure. They forced us to rush our offense which was uncharacteristic of the way we played the last four or five games. That really got us out of sync. We needed to be more patient and lot more deliberate.''
The Monarchs got out to a 4-0 lead when Kylie Howard drove to the rim after collecting the opening tip and Jenna Stephens tallied a putback goal on the next possession. Johnson found some daylight twice in a row and buried both shots to tie the score. Puskarich gave the Patriots the lead to stay at 6-4.
Puskarich matched Johnson's seven-point first quarter as Park built a 17-11 lead. While Robb had a bit of an off-night shooting the basketball, she was on target with a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter to help the Patriots increase their advantage to 36-24 at the half.
Howard and Stephens drained trifectas in the third period as John Marshall twice closed the deficit to eight points. However, Pusckarich was 4 of 5 from the floor and Park regained its double-digit lead at 48-38 entering the final eight minutes.
Tucker twice found Robb open going to the basket for layins to keep the Patriots out of harms way in the fourth quarter.
Four free throws from Montes enabled the Monarchs to trim their deficit to 58-50 with 30 seconds remaining. Puskarich went to the foul line twice and hit 3 of 4 attempts to extend the lead back into double digits.
Howard, Montes and Stephens all had solid offense nights for John Marshall. Howard tossed in 18 points while Montes scored 15 and collected 16 rebounds, many coming underneath the offensive glass. Stephens finished with 13 points.