WHEELING - Boo Lathon put University on the ropes at the start of the third quarter.
At the end of the period, he provided the final blow.
Lathon, Wheeling Park's sensational senior, registered career highs of 34 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Patriots past the Hawks, 61-55, in a West Virginia Class AAA Region One, Section One boys' basketball semifinal at ''The Palace.''
Wheeling Park’s Emil Popicg (1) tries to get around the defense of University’s Drew Fraser.
photo by Rick Thorp
The victory secures another trip to Morgantown, where the Patriots (18-5) will face the Mohigans for the sectional crown Friday night. It will be Park's third trip there this season (2-1) and the fourth matchup of the season between the two clubs.
Morgantown topped Brooke, 77-55, in Tuesday night's other sectional semifinal.
''The one thing we couldn't do was physically find a match - whether we were in a zone or man - for Lathon,'' University coach Paul Ingle said.
''He's special player.''
Lathon almost single-handily turned a tight game into a comfortable Park lead in the third quarter.
After the Hawks' Timothy Dixon drained a 3-pointer to cut Park's lead to 31-30, Lathon reeled off seven straight points, including a three-point play. The burst gave the Patriots a 38-30 advantage, their largest lead of the game to that point.
''Boo just continues to have a spectacular year,'' Park coach Michael Jebbia said after watching his squad win its sixth straight. ''We told the guys we wanted him to touch the ball every possession.''
Lathon exploded for 15 of Park's 20 points during the third quarter. He capped the quarter with a long-distance trey from in front of the scorer's table that gave the Patriots a 13-point lead.
The Hawks led just once - 5-4 - but they sure came close to reclaiming it, especially in the second quarter.
Junior Deion Cunningham netted 10 of his team-high 22 points in the second quarter, including eight straight for his team, as the Hawks drew to within 28-25.
University shot well during the quarter, while the Patriots were having trouble getting any offensive consistency.
Turnovers and mental lapses didn't help, either.
''The thing I was upset with was during the final 2 minutes of the quarter we had some turnovers ... we threw the ball away once and lost it another time.
''At halftime, we changed our defenses a little bit. Cunningham's a good player and he got loose on us in the first half. A couple of times down they made us pay and that's a credit to them.''
Of University's 27 first-half points, 23 came in the lane.
Lathon's performance in the third helped Park shoot 8 of 14 from the field during the quarter. Lathon himself was 6 of 7 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, the Hawks struggled to convert, finishing the quarter 3 of 13 from the floor.
''Basketball is a game of momentum and I thought their coaches did a great job of getting them into something to attack the zone with a little more efficiency,'' Ingle said.
''We found ourselves down, but we fought back.''
The victory was Park's second in six days against University and its first on ''Leap Day'' during Jebbia's tenure.
''The last time we played on 'Leap Day' (2008) we lost in the sectional,'' Jebbia said smiling. ''I have 'Rain Man' characteristics. I can remember dates, stats and things like that. But, it was in the back of my head.''
Now, as the calendar turns in March, the Patriots know they will at least play in the regional.
''We battled and got the win,'' Jebbia said.
Errin Baynes and Luke Saseen each added 10 points for Park.