WHEELING - Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central have been playing against each other for 37 years, but Tuesday night's matchup between the two crosstown rivals could have been the first time where both squads came in with sub .500 records.
Records aside, both teams put on a show for a jam-packed crowd that watched the Patriots (3-4) defeat the Marron Knights (2-6), 71-64.
''We needed a win,'' Park coach Michael Jebbia said. ''We hit a rough patch playing some teams that were bigger than us, but we choose to schedule it this way. We play everybody, which probably contributed to a couple of our early losses, but I think it makes us better. The kids want to play better competition.''
Wheeling Park’s Ryan Reinbeau (1) tries to dribble around the guard of Wheeling Central’s Justin Hammers (3) during their game on Tuesday night.
Tied at 10-10 midway through the first, the Patriots used a 9-0 run to end the quarter and extend their lead to as many as 14 before Central went on an 11-4 run to close the half.
Down six at 29-23, the Maroon Knights fought all the way back to tie the game at 35-35 on a David Park 3-pointer only to watch Trenton Smith hit a trey of his own seven seconds later to give the lead back to the hosts.
''We knew coming in that they were going to take the majority of the shots and I think we wore them down, but they kept fighting,'' Jebbia said.
The game then came down to a shooting contest between Park junior Luke Saseen and Central's Chase Harler, who was only in his eighth career high school contest.
Halfway through the fourth, Sassen put the Patriots ahead 54-44 on two makes from the charity stripe, but Harler kept fighting, and came right back with a 3-point bomb, one of the freshman's seven of the night.
Harler then made it a five-point game at 69-64 off another 3, but the rookie's effort finally fell short.
''I'm proud of my kids 'effort,'' Central veteran coach Mel Stephens said. ''They came out hard and competed. I thought we did key end of the game situations better then we have in the past. Even though we lost, we were able to extend the game and keep it close.
''The problem was we ran out of timeouts and that kind of hurt us. I thought we did a good job of attacking the basket late and getting to the free-throw line. That gave us a chance to score some points without the clock running. Chase made a couple big 3s down the stretch too, but to their credit, they were able to knock down the free throws when they needed to.''
Jebbia agreed saying, ''We made enough free throws and I think Saseen in the fourth quarter kind of put us on his shoulders and got aggressive. That's the way we need him to play.''
Saseen finished the game with 18 points, 16 of which came in the fourth.
The Park coach was also impressed with how Harler carried his own team in the final quarter.
''He doesn't look like a ninth grader,'' Jebbia said. ''He plays with the confidence of a junior or senior. Our guys have a great respect for him. We tried to wear him down, but he kept plugging and plugging. He's going to be a handful for a lot of teams for the next three years.''
Harler finished with a game-high 34 points, while Park added 21 for the Knights.
Reinbeau backed Saseen with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Trenton Smith chipped in 12.