GLEN DALE - The John Marshall girls' basketball team already had a pair of losses to rival Wheeling Park on its ledger entering Wednesday night's third and final regular-season matchup between the two, this one at John Marshall High School.
When the Patriots' Haley Robb dropped in a 3-pointer to give her club a 28-8 lead early in the second quarter, there wasn't much hope for revenge left for the Monarchs.
But John Marshall slowly chipped away, cutting the margin to 12 at the half and five after three before getting all the way back to even at 39-39 on Alyssa George's two free throws midway through the fourth.
John Marshall’s Kiley Howard (24) passes to Alyssa George (10) as Krista Crawshaw defends.
The teams traded the lead three times down the stretch before the Monarchs' Alexis Montes dropped in two free throws with 6.5 seconds left for a 50-49 lead.
The Patriots (19-4) hurried the ball up the floor and Emily Puskarich got a good look from 3-point land that wouldn't fall, securing a one-point John Marshall (11-9) upset of the No. 5-ranked Class AAA team in the state.
"Alexis stepped up and drained them,'' John Marshall coach Mark McCormick said. "I honestly don't think it fazes her.
"This is a big boost. It's a big win.''
And a big loss for the Patriots.
Coach Meredith Dailer was obviously disappointed in her team. Park was outrebounded 35-28 and scored just 18 points in the second half, thanks in large part to increased defensive pressure by the Monarchs.
Yet through it all, the Patriots were up one in the waning seconds following Kambrea O'Neal's putback of a missed Robb free throw.
"We possibly could have gotten complacent after that first half,'' Dailer said. "We jumped out quick (19-4 lead after one) and everything was real easy.
"They played really good, man-to-man defense in the second and half and we weren't as patient as we would like.
"They really controlled the rebounds. We had very few offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities in the second half, and I think that was a player."
That had a lot to do with the absence of Park's best post player, Krista Crawshaw. She picked up her third foul at 2:14 of the second quarter, and her fourth at 1:06 of the third. Crawshaw was limited to one point.
The Patriots held a 31-19 lead at halftime and scored three of the first five of the second half, before the Monarchs' Kiley Howard took over. She scored eight in a row including a pair of 3-pointers before Marissa Tucker stemmed the tide for the Patriots.
Montes, however, scored two of her 14 to close the quarter.
"The first time we played them we lost by eight or 11 and had 30 turnovers," McCormick said. "The second time we lost by six up there in the OVACs and we had 30 turnovers.
"I thought we did a nice job of handling their pressure and the girls stuck together."
With the Patriots clinging to that five-point lead and the Monarchs failing to dent the margin despite several close looks at the basket, senior Mallory Ball drained her only basket - a 3-pointer from the right wing. Soon after, George hit a pair of free throws to knot it with 6:16 left.
"They worked us in the post on their end, and those are obviously things we're going to have to work on for the tournament," Dailer said. "We talked about the patience in the second half with our offense and getting things we wanted.
"They pressured us and we didn't do what we wanted to do."
John Marshall took its first lead at 42-41 on a pair of Montes free throws with 4:10 remaining. The Monarchs led by as many as three twice, but the Patriots took the lead back on O'Neal's bucket, leading to the frantic finish.
"What our team has to realize, is we have a nice advantage," McCormick said. "It's a chess match, and sometimes you have to work inside-out, and sometimes you have to work outside-in.
"They did a tremendous job on the boards, and that's something we didn't do in the prior two games."
Howard led the way with a game-high 16 points and nine rebounds for the Monarchs. Montes had 12 rebounds to go with her point total, and Jenna Stephens netted 12 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
Robb paced the Patriots with 15 points and five rebounds. Puskarich added 14 points and a team-leading eight boards.
"A lot of people might say this game doesn't mean anything because the postseason is already set, but it always means something to come down to JM and win or lose," Dailer said. "The mood is that we have work to do.
"The next one means a whole lot more than this one."