WHEELING - John Marshall was a little too close for Michael Jebbia's comfort as the two teams exited the locker room for the second half of Friday's West Virginia Class AAA clash at the Palace on the Hill. With that in mind, the Patriots turned up the defensive intensity and it paid dividends.
Theo Blackston scored 11 to lead a pair of double-digit scorers as Wheeling Park (4-8) outscored John Marshall (3-8) by a 26-15 count in the second half on their way to a 50-32 victory.
''We knew going in this game wasn't going to be easy because John Marshall's patient with the ball and well coached,'' Jebbia said. ''I was just proud that our third quarter was better than it's been the last couple games.''
Wheeling Park’s Luke Saseen (10) looks to pass to an open teammate during Friday night’s game.
The Patriots didn't shoot particularly well, hitting 41 percent, but they held the Monarchs to a 30-percent clip. That's not all that uncommon an occurrence for John Marshall, according to Coach Bill Storm.
''The kids are trying and they're good kids (so) you can't get mad at them,'' Storm said. ''But it's frustrating watching the same thing game after game.
''When you hold a team to 50 points you think you have a chance to win. We've been doing that consistently, and a lot of times it's due to us being patient and holding the ball and that kind of stuff.''
The Monarchs did just that for the first eight minutes and trailed 10-9 after the first quarter. But they got away from what they do best and began settling for the outside shot, missing their first 15 from 3-point range until Derek Och connected with their only make late in the fourth quarter.
''We can't make 3s - I don't know why we shoot them,'' Storm said. ''I thought we lost our discipline and started firing 3s in the second period.
''Why we started that I don't know.''
Wheeling Park didn't have a problem with it, either. Blackston scored all but two of his points in the first half as the Patriots opened up a 24-17 halftime lead.
''Then we got it to 11 and we were able to stretch it out there a little bit there in the fourth,'' Jebbia said.
The Patriots held an 11-point lead heading to the fourth, and that's when Luke Saseen scored six of his 10 as Jebbia's club pulled away.
A big part of Wheeling Park's success was its defense against the John Marshall tandem of Evan Magers (3 of 11, nine points) and Tanner Filben (2 of 9, four points).
''We sped them up a little bit and we knew that Magers and Filben were the guys that we needed to focus on as shooters,'' Jebbia said. ''I just tried to tell our guys the first 11 games are over and you have to stay together as a unit.
''There's going to be a lot of, as Bill Belichick would say, perimeter noise. When you have success and then you struggle, of course the question is 'what's going on?' ''
Magers led the way for the Monarchs, while Och, Ryan Davis and Dustin Whitfield evenly divided 15 points. Michael Thomas had a nice game for the Patriots with seven points and six rebounds.