By TRACY WATSON
For The Intelligencer
WHEELING - For the initial 16 minutes of Thursday night's girls' basketball game with visiting Morgantown, Wheeling Park looked like a team primed to record an upset, and a huge victory.
Wheeling Park’s Chole Robb (4) attempts a shot in front of Morgantown’s Danielle Rudash (44).
Unfortunately for Coach Dee Davis' Patriots, the second half was a completely different story as Park managed only three field goals during the final two quarters - none in the third period.
Junior Brie Giuliani scored 16 of her game-high 31 points in the first six minutes of the game, finishing with five 3s, and added eight rebounds as the Mohigans broke a halftime deadlock by outscoring the Patriots, 41-14, in the second half to record a 72-45 victory against the stunned hosts at the Palace on the Hill.
It was the seventh victory in 10 outings for Coach Jason White's squad while Davis' club fell to 4-5 and will travel south to face North Marion on Saturday.
With Giuliani scoring 16 first-quarter points, Morgantown raced to a 19-10 advantage before settling on a 21-16 count after a quarter. The Patriots battled back in the second, using a 12-1 burst to force a 31-31 tie at halftime.
"I told the girls they were going to press us in the third quarter and to be ready,'' Davis said. ''They assured me they were, but they weren't. We had people guarding space and overall it was just a panic.
"We played like we should be able to play in the first half. But then some girls get tired and their defense lags and someone else is tired and don't help pick them up and it turns into a domino effect and we fall apart."
Junior Samantha Parks started the big Morgantown run in the third, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and another basket off a steal for a quick 8-0 run. After an Olivia Seggie deuce, Giulani cashed in three more baskets. With 3:22 showing it was a 47-31 Mohigans lead.
The Park's only two points of the quarter came on free throws by Kambrea O'Neal at 2:05 and Skylar Carrington at 1:43 as the Mohigans' 21-2 rally made it a 52-33 count heading into the final quarerr.
Things didn't get much better for Park as a 20-5 spurt pushed the margin to its largest of the contest at 72-38. The Patriots did manage to score the final seven points of the game.
"This was long overdue for us," White said. "We have really been struggling shooting the basketball and have been in a major slump. While we haven't had much gym time recently, we did spend a good bit of Wednesday shooting the ball in practice and it paid off (Thursday).
"And even more important than the shooting, we picked things up on defense in the second half, created some turnovers and turned them into easy buckets."
As for Giuliani's performance, White wasn't surprised, but he was very happy.
"She is a little bit of a streaky shooter, but she is our leading scorer," he said. "Our first game of the season she was lights out against Fairmont and scored 27 points. But this is the first game she had near that since.
"A lot of people don't realize that we have three girls that can really shoot the ball like that. Another big key is that these girls are so unselfish. This is a huge road win for us.
"We have talked about putting four quarters together. We didn't do that (Thursday) with a bad second, but we put three together and it worked out. Also give Wheeling Park credit, they really battled back and played hard in that first half."
Parks finished with 13 points, all in the second half, while Seggie added 11 for the winners. Morgantown had a 34-25 edge off the glass and turned the ball over 15 times, one fewer than the Patriots.
Carrington, O'Neal and Chloe Robb scored 10 points each for Wheeling Park, with Robb hitting a trio of deep 3-point shots.
The Patriots were 13 of 28 from the field in the first half, but finished 16 of 52.