By DAVE MORRISON
MOUNDSVILLE - It must be the shoes.
Wheeling Parks Toddy Goodwin-Roe (22) dribbles around the defense of John Marshall’s Ronnie Brown (3).
After committing what he called "a costly" turnover,slipping in his personal sneakers late in the game in a loss to Seton-LaSalle last week, Wheeling Park's Elijah Bell went back to the team-issued shoes, and he found new heights.
Bell had 14 points, including back-to-back slam dunks in the fourth quarter, seven assists and five steals in the Patriots' 85-36 victory against John Marshall Monday at the Moundsville Fieldhouse.
"Coach asked me if I wanted to try a new pair of shoes," Bell said after the game. "After I slipped in the others, I was willing to do anything. That was a costly turnover, it probably cost us the game. I think it made a big difference. I've been breaking them in during practice, so they were good to go."
So was Bell, and his teammates, who ran out to a 26-8 lead over the Monarchs and never looked back.
Ryan Reinbeau led the way with 21 points for Park (5-2), and Phil Bledsoe got back to his old double-double ways with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
There was plenty of highlights along the way, but Bell's back-to-back slam dunks in the fourth led the way.
"How many times have you seen a player get back-to-back dunks," said coach Mike Jebbia, Wheeling Park's all-time leading scorer.. "I could barely dunk, so I know I never did it. He really gives us a spark when he comes in. You saw it again tonight. He has a rebounds an steal and a basket the first few seconds he's in there."
Then there was the crowd-pleasing back-to-back dunks in the fourth quarter.
The first dunk came courtesy of Savion Johnson, who could have had an easy layup after a steal, but inside spotted Bell trailing on the play and dished it off to Bell for his first career dunk. The second one came just over 10 seconds later off, what else, a Bell steal.
He nearly had a third after another Park steal, until he was wisely fouled by a Monarch player.
"Savion's pass was perfect," Bell said. "I have to give him a big assist on that one. It was nice, getting those (dunks). It kind of gives the team a boost, gets the fans into the game."
It was one of those nights that John Marshall coach Bill Storm has seen all too much of lately.
"Looking for a positive, I thought our guards (Tanner Filben, who had 14 points, five rebounds, and Hunter Sadowski, eight points) played well," Storm said. "They got the ball where we wanted them to get the ball, we just didn't make any shots. A lot of that credit goes to (Park). They were bigger than us, stronger than us, and longer than us. I didn't realize just how long they were. They have a good team. We will get better playing the schedule we are playing. But when you are playing Steubenville, Parkersburg South, Morgantown, University and now Park, that;s a tough stretch."
Jebbia had cautioned his team about complacency going into the game, especially after having the game moved back due to weather conditions.
"We told them that everybody else has been in the same boat around the state, nobody has been practicing and nobody has been playing (due to the weather)," Jebbia said. "We told them to control what we could control, and that was playing hard and sharing the basketball."
Johnson's assists to Bell on the dunk was one of 21 by the Patriots in the game (on 38 made field goals).
Bell was just as giving with seven assists and Luke Saseen had six.
"I thought Luke played a great game," Jebbia said. "It might not show up in the boxscore, but he pushed the basketball, got us into a lot of things and played hard. He's our senior, the leadership has to come from him and he knows that. He did a great job of that tonight."
Reinbeau also had a good game, getting a lot of his points on runouts led by the suffocating Park defense that had 19 steals and caused 27 turnovers.
"Ryan is starting to realize that he doesn't have to camp out on the 3-point line to score," Jebbia said. "He ran the floor tonight and scored a lot of points. He's going to be a complete player by doing that."
All nine of Park's players scored at least four points in the game.
Park will be at home Monday hosting Morgantown before traveling to Parkersburg Friday, Jan. 17 to take on undefeated Parkerburg South.
John Marshall (2-5) will host University Friday.