WHEELING - The idea seemed kinda far fetched an hour earlier. On one hand, it would have been easy to imagine Wheeling Park spending the last part of the fourth quarter playing keepaway Wednesday night, just trying to get a game against state-ranked University to come to a merciful end.
At 7:45 p.m., the Patriots trailed 16-3 against the state-ranked Hawks (11-3), and it looked like the only thing they were going to get to fall was their confidence.
An hour later, the Wheeling Park (15-2) guards were, indeed, playing hot potato with the ball, but they were just trying to get it out of their hands before the obligatory fouls came, capping off a remarkable rally and a 73-58 victory.
If you're doing the math, that's a 28-point swing against one of the state's best.
''I'm not sure,'' Patriots coach Meredith Dailer said of what happened in that first quarter. ''We came out a little flat and they jumped on us. But you have to give our kids a little credit; they really battled back in that second quarter, cut it one, and got the job done.
''Did I think we were going to score 73 points after that first quarter? No.''
Actually, similarly state-ranked Park grabbed a lead three times in the second quarter, though never by more than one possession, and University needed a 4-0 run in the last 1:08 to seize what was once almost a sure thing - a halftime lead. The Patriots scored two dozen points in the quarter and shaved 10 points off their deficit.
''They needed to understand that first quarter was a fluke,'' Dailer said. ''That's not our basketball and they know that. They don't need me to tell them that. But then we started talking about improvements that need to be seen.''
A look inside the box score says this happened on the defensive end and at the free-throw line. Park, which was 16 of 21 at the line (13 of 14 in the second half) took 30 shots in each half, but made one more in the first half than the second. University's shooting percentage dropped 14 points in the game's final 16 minutes, settling in at 44 percent for the game, a hair better than WPHS.
''This season hasn't been about quitting,'' Dailer said. ''There's been moments where it hasn't been going our way. The kids really come together on the defensive end. We went man (defense), and they really started talking and communicating and finding their matchups and getting stops.''
''I think in the second half, we kinda came out and controlled what we wanted to do.''
Leading the way for the Patriots was Emily Puskarich with 19 points, followed by 18 from Haley Robb. Krista Crawshaw added 12.
Maria Callen's 18 points were tops for University.