WHEELING - Wheeling Park coach Meredith Dailer breathed a sigh of relief after Wednesday's 51-49 victory against John Marshall in the semifinals of the West Virginia Class AAA Region One, Section One Tournament.
Wheeling Park got into an early hole, bounced back to take a commanding lead, only to watch John Marshall jump back in front in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots' Haley Robb scored the final basket on a driving layup with with 27 seconds on the clock to break a 49-49 tie.
John Marshall’s Shannon Pegg dishes off in front of Wheeling Park’s Haley Robb.
Monarchs point guard Kristin Lewicki drove the length of the court and missed a floater in the lane for the tie.
Kambria O'Neal hauled in the rebound but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and the Monarchs' Alexis Montes came away with the rebound with 2.7 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Montes' inbounds pass was intercepted by Krista Crawshaw to seal the Patriots victory.
''It was about what I expected, especially when you play a team four times and twice in a week,'' Dailer said. ''You know each other well and what to expect. I thought we did a nice job containing their post players this go-round. When we were composed on offense, we got the things we wanted.
''I'm just happy we got out of here with a win.''
On the other side, John Marshall coach Mark McCormick could only shake his head and wonder.
''It was a good game, two rivals, my girls busted their butts,'' he said. ''We came into the second half down nine and we kept chipping away and chipping away.
"We just happened to come out on the short end of things. I'm not going to fault my girls. Their effort was 100 percent.''
Kylie Howard, who finished with a game-high 20 points, drove to the basket early in the fourth quarter to give John Marshall a 43-42 lead, its first since being up 17-15 in the beginning stages of the second quarter. It was also the last lead for the Monarchs.
Crawshaw put the Patriots back up with a basket and ensuing foul shot to push the lead back to two.
Montes tied it a 45-45 on a basket at the 3:23 mark, only to see Robb put Park back in front with a layup.
Both teams failed to score on their next possessions. Howard tried to give John Marshall a lead with a 3-pointer but missed. Jenna Stephens was there for a rebound and was fouled, making both of her free throws to tie it again with 1:51 left.
O'Neal missed two free throws, but a tussle for the rebound ended up in Park's favor via the possession arrow. Emily Puskarich put the Patriots back in front with two free throws.
Montes missed a turnaround jumper and Puskarich failed on a pullup jumper on the teams' next possessions before Howard tied the game for the final time with two free throws.
That led to Robb's driving layup, a play that was working all night for Puskarich and Marissa Tucker.
''We talked to them about using their on-the-ball screen and not settling for 3,'' Dailer said. ''She did just that. She attacked the basket and I think that surprised them. She executed just the way we wanted.''
Lewicki went strong to the basket and let the ball go at the free-throw line but it rolled off the side of the rim and into O'Neal's arms.
''With that much time left, I always go with my quickest girl to attack the bucket,'' McCormick said. ''She has made those throughout the season and I felt good with it. I thought with the 1-and-1 situation, she could drive, maybe get a foul. But I am not going to fault that shot.''
John Marshall came out on fire and led by 10 points at 12-2 and was looking good with a minute left in the first quarter, up 17-8.
''I wanted to hold for one shot, and I don't know if my girls didn't hear me or what, but we made some errant passes and (Wheeling Park went on a) 6-0 run to close the quarter (that) really switched the momentum,'' McCormick said.
That 6-0 run turned into 17-0 to put Wheeling Park in control. The Monarchs got back in it by limiting Wheeling Park to four points in the third quarter.
Puskarich led Wheeling Park with 17 points, followed by Tucker with 12 and Crawshaw with 10. Montes chipped in with 12 for the Monarchs.
Wheeling Park plays host to Morgantown at 7:30 on Friday night for the sectional title. The Patriots have won all three meetings with the Mohigans this season, including the OVAC Class 5A championship two weeks ago.