WHEELING - Burying 9 of its first 11 shots from 3-point land, University raced out to a 19-point lead in the third quarter before finding out that Wheeling Park wasn't about to pack it in Wednesday night.
The Patriots, trailing 52-33 with under a minute to play in the third quarter, put on a furious rally to pull within one point in the final 12 seconds and had their shot for a game-tying 3-point attempt before losing 64-61 to the revenge-minded visitors.
Park had outscored the Hawks 25-10 in the fourth quarter before senior guard Curl Dixon dropped in two free throws to put the lead back out to three points. The Patriots called a timeout at the eight-second mark to set up for a possible 3-point attempt that, if successful, would have sent the game into overtime.
Wheeling Park’s Chalmer Moffet (33) and University’s Jeffrey Leftridge (15) go up for a rebound during their matchup on Wednesday night in Wheeling.
Senior Michael Thomas, who had helped engineer the late comeback on both ends of the court, got open for the last-ditch attempt from behind the arc. However, the shot failed to draw iron as the buzzer sounded, enabling University (8-4) to avenge a previous 71-60 home court setback at the hands of the Patriots.
''We are upset we lost the game but the guys fought like crazy to give ourselves a chance to tie it at the end," Park coach Michael Jebbia said. ''We didn't make progress (Tuesday night) when we lost at Brooke but we made progress (Wednesday night)."
The setback was the fourth in a row for the youthful Patriots as their record fell to 3-8.
''I told our guys after the game that we have to ignore listening to the perimeter noise about what people in the general public want to say. Let's control what we can control,'' Jebbia said. ''We have 11 games left. Seven of them are in our gym. While we're not used to being in this position, we have to keep battling. This is what coaching is all about. We are trying to build some character and we're going to continue coaching them and the kids are going to keep playing hard."
With Park trailing 52-36 entering the fourth quarter, Thomas banged in a 3-pointer and Zach Snedecker's underhand layup to made it an 11-point game at 54-43.
Snedecker, Andrew Kowalo and Luke Saseen scored six points each down the stretch to keep the pressure on the Hawks. Saseen's spinning one-hander finally pulled the Patriots to within 62-59 at the 51-second mark. Thomas's aggressive defensive play forced a turnover and Snedecker's drive to the basket cut the University advantage to 62-61. But Park was forced to foul Curl Dixon at the 12-second mark. He ended an 8-for-8 evening at the foul line by swishing both attempts, forcing the Patriots to attempt a last ditch 3-pointer.
Travis Tomer's 18 points and 15 from Curl Dixon paced the Hawks' scoring. Saseen and Reinbeau finished with 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Patriots.