WHEELING - When Wheeling Park played John Marshall on Jan. 19, the Patriots' pressure forced the Monarchs into 23 turnovers on the way to a 61-50 victory.
If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
Wheeling Park turned up the pressure and John Marshall again couldn't handle it, committing 24 turnovers as the Patriots won 63-55 at Wheeling Park High School in the semifinal of the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class 5A Tournament.
Wheeling Park’s Marissa Tucker (4) sets up the offense as John Marshall’s Kylie Howard (24) defends during Monday night’s OVAC Class 5A semifinal. The Patriots advanced to face Morgantown with the victory.
Photo by Josh Strope
Wheeling Park, winner of the 4A championship last season, will play Morgantown at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at OUE for the championship. The Mohigans beat rival University, 60-56, in the other semifinal.
''I'm really pleased with how our kids played - they came out with a lot of intensity,'' Wheeling Park coach Meredith Dailer said. ''The defensive stops we got, keeping them on their toes and we created a bunch of turnovers.
''We felt like (the press) was a strength the last time we played. The adjustments we made to the press were to our advantage. It was a strength and we wanted to stick with it.''
Ten of those turnovers came in the second quarter and in the middle of a 15-0 Wheeling Park (17-3) run.
John Marshall (10-8) led 13-7 as Kylie Howard scored nine of her team-high 26 in the first quarter.
Wheeling Park went to the press and John Marshall did its best to let the Patriots back into the game.
With less than a minute remaining in the first quarter, a Kelsi Johnson steal led to a basket to tie the game at 13-13. The next possession was the same as Emily Puskarich intercepted a Shannon Pegg pass and raced to the other end for an easy lay-in and a 15-13 lead right before the end of the quarter.
A basket by Krista Crawshaw, three free throws by Puskarich and two by Kambria O'Neal pushed the lead to 22-13 before Howard's layup finally changed the Monarchs' score.
''This was a rough pill to swallow,'' John Marshall coach Mark McCormick said. ''We got in a little hole in that second quarter with turnovers and then we put ourselves in a halftime deficit of 10.
''It's been our M.O. over the last three or four games and these turnovers have been our Achilles' heel. I have been preaching to the girls that if you take care of the little things, that leads to big things. We did a better job in the second half.''
As if the turnovers weren't bad enough for John Marshall, Puskarich was showing why she was a first team all-stater as a sophomore.
The junior scored a game-high 29 points. Her 10 points in the first quarter helped keep Wheeling Park from falling in too big of a hole. The rest of the way saw her get to the basket, fight for rebounds, and jump in the passing lanes.
''We talked about (Monday) where everybody needed to put together 32 minutes of basketball,'' Dailer said. ''This tournament is one of the goals in our locker room. It's something we look at every day. We want to defend that title and we also understand that these are the teams were are going to be seeing over the course of the next couple weeks and we need to maintain our standing.''
John Marshall closed the gap to 54-47 midway through the fourth but couldn't force Wheeling Park into the same turnovers that plagued it. Puskarich and Crawshaw each came up with key baskets stemming from wide-open looks after escaping the Monarchs press.
Haley Robb added 13 points for the Patriots. Alexis Montes chipped in with 14 for the Monarchs.