WHEELING - Wheeling Park was blown away by a perfect storm Saturday afternoon inside Wheeling Jesuit University's McDonough Center.
The Patriots ran headfirst into a St. Joseph's Prep squad that put the clamps on defensively, shot the lights out offensively, and pretty much had its way with the defending West Virginia Class AAA runner-ups.
The result was a 71-49 triumph for the Hawks before a standing-room-only crowd, that included Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, in the second game of the 5th annual Cancer Research Classic.
Wheeling Park’s Boo Lathon (33) passes as St. Joseph’s Prep’s Miles Overton (1) and Steve Vasturia (32) defend Saturday afternoon.
Photo by Rick Thorp
''I just told the kids to put this game behind them,'' Park coach Michael Jebbia said. ''The kids played hard in the second half, but that's a good team we played.
''We probably won't see anyone like them the rest of the season.''
As well as things for going for the Philadelphia school, the situation was equally frustrating for Park (6-2). But, the Hawks and their veteran coach, Speedy Morris, had a lot to do with that.
''They came out in a match-up zone and we settled for poor shots early,'' Jebbia said. ''They hit their shots and we dug ourselves a hole.''
The Hawks (8-2) jumped out to a 17-2 lead behind nine points from senior Gene Williams and stretched the advantage to 21-8 after one quarter.
St. Joseph's shot 53 percent (7 of 13) in the opening quarter, while the Patriots were just 3 of 14 (21 percent).
It was a trend that would continue for the rest of the game.
The Hawks finished the game shooting 58 percent from the field, 56 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, the Patriots shot 33, 28 and 75 percent, respectively.
''We have to get better against the zone,'' Jebbia stressed. ''We have to take better shots and be able to knock some shots down, too.''
Park had little problem knocking shots down during Friday night's victory at Brooke, something Morris was well-aware of.
''The key was slowing them down, there's no question about that,'' he said. ''(Friday) night they went on a big 20-0 run. I was concerned they would go on some big spurts (Saturday) and that never happened. Our transition defense was very good.''
The first and third quarters were strong ones for the Hawks, who outscored the Patriots 42-20 during the span.
''We thrive on getting teams to turn the ball over,'' Jebbia said, ''but those guys handled the ball very well.
''Every time we'd get the deficit to 11 or 12, they'd hit a 3 or get an and-one.''
Boo Lathon, who scored a team-high 14 points for the Patriots, buried a baseline jumper midway through the third quarter that cut the Hawks lead to 37-26. But Steve Vasturia responded with a 3-pointer to make the score 40-26.
Luke Saseen followed with a jumper to trim the Hawks lead to 12, but St. Joe's went on a 9-0 run, capped by a Kevin Oberlies' trey that went through the net as the third-quarter horn sounded.
''We have three good scorers and when they get going they don't take bad shots,'' Morris said. ''When they get going they play under control and that was a key.''
Vasturia poured in a game-high 24 to earn game Most Valuable Player honors. Miles Overton, son of former NBA journeyman Doug Overton, followed with 19 points. Williams finished with 17.
Errin Baynes added 10 points for Park, which won the rebounding battle, 32-27. Lathon grabbed a team-best eight.
''I have a lot of respect for them,'' Morris said of Park. ''They're not as bad as they looked and we're not as good as we played.''