WHEELING -In a duel between two of the hottest teams in the OVAC, Wheeling Park proved it's inferno burned brighter as the Patriots cooled off visiting Fort Frye, 53-36, Friday evening in a consolation game of the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Championship Tournament.
''We've been playing really well,'' Cadet coach Eric Henniger said. ''We almost won every single game by double-digits expect for one. We just ran into a buzzsaw (Friday) and it happens.''
Fort Frye (13-7) entered the matchup having won 12 out of their last 13 contests, but couldn't get anything going as the team ran into a brick wall known as the Patriots defense.
Wheeling Park’s Theo Blackston (34) looks to setup a play while being defended by Fort Frye’s Shon Smith (15) during their game Friday night in Wheeling.
''It's a tough situation to come into. Driving this far to come play a game that may not mean anything.,'' Henniger said. ''Our guys played really hard. I won't fault them on that. We just didn't execute a lot of things like we normally do. I don't know what the reason was for that because we have been.''
''(Park) played pretty good defense, so that was probably the reason.''
Senior Ryan Reinbeau got Park (10-10) going early as he scored six of his team's first 13 points en rout to an early 13-8 lead at the end of one.
The Patriots kept that momentum as the team went on a 12-2 run to start the second quarter and had a 14-point lead at the half.
The Cadets, however, came out of the locker room with some energy as the team used a 9-2 spurt to cut Park's lead to nine at 34-25 in the beginning of the third, courtesy of seven points from Seth Lagraen, who finished with a game-high 15 points.
The Patriots would put the game on ice though as they went on a 12-3 run to end the game.
''A solid team win,'' Park coach Michael Jebbia said. ''We're really starting to gel and get it together. The first 11 games, we were trying to find the right pieces and put them in the right places, but 10 guys are getting solid minutes right now. Not every game is going to be like that, but right now, with everything kinda being equal, there's not a lot of drop off from the guys that are starting (compared) to the ones coming off the bench.''
Reinbeau led the Patriots with 11 points, while Trenton Smith finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists as no player played more than 23 minuets.
Luke Sassen, Zach Snedeker and Phillip Bledsoe each added seven points a piece for Park.
Snedeker also grabbed eight boards.
''Ryan and Luke are our leading scorers, but we still have guys that are capable of getting us going,'' Jebbia said. ''Smith and Snedeker have been playing better as of late. (Smith) gives us a perimeter threat and he finished tonight with a heckuva floor game.
''We're starting to get more consistent. Sometimes it takes awhile when you don't have that returning experience.''
For Fort Frye, Shon Smith, who has been averaging over 20 points a night, was held to just 10 as the Cadets finished a frigid 1 for 20 from 3-point.
''We're a decent team from the 3-point arc,'' Henniger pointed out. ''We like to attack a lot more though. We were settling for wide-open 3s when we shouldn't have been. That was what we ran into. Sometimes it's hard to pass up those wide-open looks.''
The road ahead is not an easy one for Park as the Patriots will face both George Washington and South Charleston, the No. 10 and No. 1 teams in the state, respectively, next week.