WHEELING - After battling back to tie the score at 48-48, invading Parkersburg opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run to take the lead for keeps on the way to defeating Wheeling Park 54-48 and spoil the Patriots' home opener Saturday night.
Dru Aldridge's nice move to his left for a soft turnaround dropped through the cords to break the deadlock. The Big Reds then got a steal and drive to the rim by Trevor Britton and two foul shots from Andrew Bayer with 5:54 remaining to extend the lead to 54-48.
Park went nearly seven minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter before Trenton Smith's triple from the top of key closed the gap to 59-54 with 1:35 remaining. Parkersburg, after going to the foul line only two times without hitting any during the first three quarters, cashed 10 of 14 free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Wheeling Park’s Luke Saseen drives to the basket Saturday night.
Photo by Rick Thorp
''I thought the strength of our team coming into the season would be defense and guarding," said Big Reds' Coach Jeff Mennillo, a former Wheeling Central athlete who enjoyed a pleasant homecoming.
''If you had told me that we were going to have 32 points at halftime, I would have been surprised. While I was thrilled with our offensive total, I reminded our kids that we had to guard better to win this game.''
The Big Reds got most of their production from guards Britton and Aldridge with 22 and 19 points, respectively.
Wheeling Park's Luke Saseen, the only returning starter on the floor for either team, got off to a good start with 10 of his team-high 17points in the opening quarter as the Patriots led by nine points following a triple by Smith and Saseen's runner. However, Parkersburg closed to within 20-15 by end of the quarter as Aldridge scored on a leaner and Britton went coast to coast for a layup after stealing the ball at the other end.
Seven points from Aldridge in the second quarter enabled the Big Reds to take the lead for the first time at 26-25 on Braeden Cabbill's layup. But Michael Thomas drained a 3 and Andrew Kowalo scored after a steal to send the Patriots back on top.
Britton then tied the game at 32-32 with another triple before Saseen's power move to the basket and Thomas' back cut for an easy two points regained the lead for Park at 36-32 heading into the break.
The score changed hands four times during the third quarter before the aggressive Thomas again picked one of the Big Red guard's pocket for another layup. Parkersburg's Cabbill countered with his put back for the 48-48 stalemate.
''It was a tie game going into the fourth and they made a few more plays than we did," Wheeling Park coach Michael Jebbia said.. ''They set the tone by scoring the first six points to put us in the hole.
''We struggled a little bit shooting the ball. It's going to take some time before our offense comes around. We have a lot of guys playing extended varsity minutes for the first time."
The Patriots shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half but made only six attempts during the second half, finishing 19 of 48. Senior guard Quashad Pugh never got untracked as he was 1 of 15 shooting, including 0-for-8 from behind the arc..
''When we struggle offensively, we have to string some stops together," Jebbia added.''We couldn't make anything and Britton and Aldridge really hurt us."
Rebounding was another problem for the smaller Patriots as the visitors racked up a 41-28 advantage despite 12 rebounds by senior Kowalo.