WHEELING - After a road-heavy opening to the season, the Wheeling Park boys' basketball team finds itself tucked neatly into the comfy confines of The Palace on the Hill as the campaign winds down.
''This is where you want to catch your streak, is in February,'' Patriots coach Michael Jebbia said.
Photo by Tony Viola
Wheeling Park’s Savion Johnson puts up a shot over Parkersburg South’s Tyler Berry and Logan Lawrentz Friday night at Wheeling Park.
It seems that's precisely what is happening.
Sophomore Phil Bledsoe scored 18 points and collected 14 rebounds for his 10th double-double in 14 games, as Wheeling Park (11-3) held off a furious, fourth-quarter storm from Parkersburg South (12-3) for a key, 65-63 victory Friday night. Jebbia's crew came out on the winning side of the scoreboard for the fifth straight time since a Jan. 17 loss at South.
''When we play these guys it's going to be down to the wire,'' Jebbia said. ''We needed this win because we had their number 2010, 2011 and 2012, but they had our number last year and the first game this year.
''We needed it from a confidence standpoint because they are one of the top teams in the state year-in, year-out.''
Long known for its run-and-gun, free-wheeling style, Park earned this victory on the defensive end of the floor. South shot to a 19-15 lead after one quarter but scored a combined 15 the next two.
The homestanding Patriots used an extended, halfcourt defense to contest South shots at every turn.
''In the second and third quarters they pounded us pretty good,'' South coach Mike Fallon said. ''I love our kids ... what fight.
''We jabbed them early and they came back and jabbed us.''
Despite keeping hot-shooting South quiet in the second quarter, Park only mustered a 30-26 halftime advantage. That changed quickly midway through the third quarter.
Toddy Goodwin (14 total in a full 32 minutes) scored four, Ryan Reinbeau netted five of his 13 and Luke Saseen hit a pair of free throws with 1.8 seconds left to give the hosts a 45-34 lead heading to the fourth.
''In the first quarter they torched us a little bit and we had some fouls, but the defense was better - we did a good job of holding them to one shot in the middle quarters,'' Jebbia said.
Wheeling Park had no such luck in the fourth as South came out firing.
Ty Dobson (five 3-pointers, 20 points) and J.R. Kerr dialed long distance to start things. Following another Reinbeau 3-pointer, Cody Monroe got loose for two and suddenly it was 48-44. The teams took turns with mini-runs - Bledsoe scored five straight to get it back up to nine, before Dobson tallied and Kerr netted a pair at the line.
''The were 11-for-23 on 3-pointers and 11 of 24 on twos,'' Jebbia marveled. ''A 10-, 12-point lead is like three or four against them, honestly.''
Dobson drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to cut it to 58-56, but Park made its living at the free-throw line down the stretch. In fact, the host Patriots connected on 21 of 29 at the stripe overall.
''It's like in the first half I think we were waiting, waiting and running our offense,'' Fallon said. ''In the fourth quarter we just attacked, and that's what we were doing earlier in the year when we were putting up 80-85 points a game.
''We finally got back that and I was thrilled to see it.''
It was the start of a big weekend for Park, which tonight welcomes Zanesville (17-0), Ohio's No. 3-ranked Division-I team.
''We needed to take care of this sectional-type game first,'' Jebbia said. ''(Tonight) is going to be an unbelievable opponent.
''We started playing them in 1996 and they were third in the country that year. We dog ourselves a hole in the series and they still lead, 18-11.''
Logan Lawrentz added 10 points for South, while Monroe and Kerr evenly divided 18. Elijah Bell score nine points for Park, which also got six points, four rebounds and three assists from Saseen, a senior who will play tonight but undergo season-ending shoulder surgery Tuesday.