WHEELING - Wheeling Park coach Meredith Dailer knew her team would come out ready to play against a Shadyside team which defeated the Patriots a season ago.
The Tigers didn't answer the challenge until it was too late.
The homestanding Patriots never trailed inside the 'Palace on the Hill' and fought off a furious Shadyside rally to post a 59-49 victory Saturday afternoon.
Wheeling Park’s Emily Puskarich fires away during Saturday’s matinee against Shadyside at Wheeling Park High School.
Photo by Seth Staskey
"This is a great win," Dailer said. "I knew our kids would come out amped up to play this game to show what we could do. We knew Shadyside is a really good team and the girls really answered the challenge."
Park built a 10-point lead at halftime thanks to sticky defense with a mixture of pressure and just solid man-to-man defense in the halfcourt.
The defense took a toll on the Tigers.
"We shot horribly," Tigers coach Tina Yates said. "We were out of sync the entire game until the end basically, but by that time, it was just too late."
The Patriots (6-0) led by eight, 36-28, entering the final quarter.
The Tigers got within four early in the fourth when junior Hayley Holenka buried a trey. However, Park junior standout Emily Puskarich was true on a pull-up elbow jumper to stop the bleeding.
"We knew Shadyside would make a run," Dailer said. "We talked before the game about being able to adjust when they did. I thought we answered their runs well."
Shadyside (4-2) didn't go away. It battled back to within four at the middle of the fourth quarter on a triple from junior Karli Bonar.
However, the Patriots never wilted and meshed 9 of 10 foul shots in the fourth quarter to help preserve the verdict.
"We had to exert so much energy to make a run to get back in the game that it took a toll on us defensively late," Yates said. "I take the blame for that because I should have gotten some girls some rest earlier in the game and switched off some people."
Along with the foul shooting, Park also buried two triples in the fourth quarter. Both came at critical times to answer a Shadyside bucket. Marissa Tucker and Haley Robb both dialed in from distance during the fourth quarter.
All told, Puskarich led the Patriots with 19 points. Robb finished with 11, while Tucker and solid post Krista Crawshaw evenly divided 10 points.
"We're at our best when we're balanced," Dailer said. "I thought we played great team ball."
Shadyside was led by its dynamite backcourt. Holenka netted 22 points, while Bonar finished with 13.
Crawshaw's 6-foot frame neutralized Shadyside senior Brooke Meintel, who finished with just five points and 11 rebounds.
The Tigers have little time to sulk. They return to the home boards Monday against Magnolia. Park, meanwhile, plays on Dec. 22 at TRAC rival University.