WHEELING - For the second time in three days Wheeling Park welcomed one of West Virginia's top-ranked big school basketball teams to town, and for the second time in three days Coach Michael Jebbia's Patriots gave that team fits to the end.
Unfortunately Saturday night's loss to powerful South Charleston was also the second tough-luck loss Park had sustained in that same period of time.
With a pair of starters sitting on the bench having fouled out heading for overtime, freshman Brandon Knapper took control for the Flying Eagles, scoring all five of his points in the extra session, while senior Rashaud Kincade tallied four of his seven from the stripe in the final minute as South Charleston battled back from as many as 10 down at the half to survive and post a 62-58 victory against the Patriots.
The Patriots (10-12) dropped another tough one, 45-42, to another Charleston school, George Washington on Thursday night on the home boards.
''We played a couple of really good teams the last three days and that is the mindset we have to take into the tournament,'' Jebbia said. ''I believe we are ready to go. I told the kids that if anyone had told me in early January that we would complete with two top-10 teams, I just don't know if I could have believed that.
''But these kids are coming together at the right time. Andrew Kowalo and Zach Snedeker have taken over ownership and leadership roles and our sophomores have really been playing very well.''
Wheeling Park led most of the way, trailing early at 8-6 and not again until the Eagles (20-2) broke back on top at 47-45 with 4:40 to play.
A late hoop from Chalmer Moffett with four seconds to go in the opening stanza gave the hosts a 19-10 advantage, but Devyn Harris' desperation heave from beyond half court was nothing but net at the horn to make it a 19-13 score. Sophomore Trenton Smith was also big in the frame with five of his eight points.
Another triple from Harris made it a 19-16 score 17 seconds into the second, but Park closed on a 13-4 spurt to end the half, taking a 32-22 advantage to the locker room.
''That first half was the worst we have played defensively all season long,'' Eagles coach Vic Herbert said. ''It was just terrible. I felt there was no effort and there were no excuses for it. I think the kids felt like they could just walk in here and roll over (Wheeling Park)."
That lead melted quickly in the third as the Eagles tallied the initial 10 points before the Patriots broke a 32-32 tie on a Moffett putback at 2:39.
With senior standout Hunter Moles gunning in nine of his game-high 23 in the fourth, the Black Eagles built a four-point margin with 2:21 to play, but the Patriots had one more run in them, scoring five in a row from the line before Moles made it 52-52 with 40 seconds left.
In the extra session Knapper buried hoops at 3:29 and 2:38 for a 56-52 lead, one that South Charleston never let get away. The Patriots did cut the deficit to a pair on three occasions, but a late turnover thwarted any chance of a comeback.
Sophomore Ryan Reinbeau finished with 16 for the Pats while Moffett added 12 off the bench.