WHEELING - If you are looking for a word to describe Wheeling Park's 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Phil Bledsoe, it isn't a difficult task - force.
In eight games he has become a force on the inside for the Patriots on both sides of the court, a fact that Morgantown learned very quickly Monday night.
Bledsoe scored a career-high 20 points and yanked down 16 rebounds, while saving the Park at least 20 more points altering shots on the defensive end, while junior Ryan Reinbeau dropped in 19 more as the Patriots raced to an early lead and never looked back in a convincing 73-48 victory against the Mohigans.
The victory moved Coach Michael Jebbia's squad to 6-2 on the young campaign heading into a huge OVAC and West Virginia Class AAA showdown Friday night at unbeaten Parkersburg South.
It didn't take long for Bledsoe to make his presence known Monday night, as he scored nine points in the opening quarter while helping to force Morgantown (2-6) into a 6 of 18 showing, many of the misses from within just a few feet of the basket.
It was a 24-15 Wheeling Park lead after eight minutes before a 14-4 spurt to open the second chapter pushed the margin to 19 at 38-19. The Patriots eventually settled for a 44-26 edge at the break.
By that time, Bledsoe had already dumped in 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to record his sixth double-double in eight games.
"As a coaching staff we have been a little surprised at how quickly he has turned it on, but we expected him to be a force at some point," Jebbia said. "He gets hit inside a lot, but he is just so strong and works so hard.
"It is amazing how much time he invests in getting better. We are not allowed to practice on Sunday, but I guarantee you that you will find him at the "Y" working out even on his off days."
After shooting nearly 50 percent from the line in the first half, the shots didn't fall nearly as easy in the second half as the Patriots got a little sloppy, but the Mohigans still never got closer to 16. Park also finished the game on a 9-0 run for the final outcome.
"This is the third time that we have had similar leads at the half and got a little careless in the second half," Jebbia said. "We really need to do a better job of understanding shot selection, time management and scoring.
"Overall, we just need to clean some things up. I got a little upset in the fourth quarter over how quickly we were taking some shots, but in the long run we will be fine.
"The good thing is that these are very smart, coachable kids. Maybe a little youthful, but we will learn to play better with the lead."
Reinbeau and junior Toddy Goodwin-Rowe were both 7 of 7 from the foul line, with Goodwin-Rowe finishing with 14 markers. Trenton Smith and Chalmer Moffett each had seven.
Morgantown was led by Zajeen Davis and Antonio Morgano, who scored eight points each off the bench. The Mohigans did not have a double-figure scorer, but did have 10 kids dent the scoring column.
Park grabbed a 42-34 lead off the glass but turned the ball over 16 times, two more than their guests.
"Give Morgantown credit, they continued to fight the entire way," Jebbia added. "They missed a lot of layups, but they also got a lot of offensive rebounds, especially off of transition with us not getting back in time.
"They have a nice team and I can guarantee you that by the time February rolls around they are going to be all right and playing good basketball."