By DAVE MORRISON
WHEELING - Zanesville turned to a play named for a baseball term, engineered by a football player, to win a basketball game.
If you follow that, you'll understand why the Blue Devils are undefeated.
Zanesville (19-0) made the big plays in overtime and held off a spirited comeback attempt by Wheeling Park in a 72-69 victory at The Palace on the Hill Saturday night.
No play was bigger than Thomas Wibbeler's floor-length pass to Dar Stanford, who made the basket, was fouled and hit the free throw giving the Blue Devils a 68-62 lead with 44 seconds remaining in overtime.
Park did respond, when Trenton Smith hit a 3, but J.T, McFarland's two free throws with 23.9 sealed the victory for Zanesville.
"We call that play home run," Zanesville coach Scott Aronhalt said. "Thomas has the call of going for the floor-length pass or running another option. He puts that pass right on the money every time. He's our (football team) quarterback. That was a huge play."
Wheeling Park coach Michael Jebbia agreed.
"We were trying to pressure the ball and (Stanford) got behind us," Jebbia said. "It was a good play by Zanesville."
It was one of many things the Blue Devils did well.
Like battle back when Park went on a 14-3 run to start the third quarter and grab a 38-32 lead.
Park (11-3) has been good at taking those runs and pulling away.
Zanesville though, a former member of the OVAC, responded with its own 8-0 run, with 3s by Wibbeler and Wilson keying it.
"Our kids battled back," Aronhalt said. "I was proud of that. Park is a good team, and we responded in a hostile environment. We had some good looks (during that sequence) and we knocked down some big shots."
"You've got to give a lot of credit to their guys," Jebbia said. "They are seasoned players, three-year starters and they are well coached. Wibbeler hit some big shots in the second half. (J.T.) McFarland hit some big shots in the second half. They also have two of the best bigs we are going to see this year (Malik Bocook and Granger Long) who are physical and can play, and we did a good job on them. We are upset but I told the kids we got a split against two good teams this weekend (beating Parkersburg South Friday, 65-63). Not too many teams are going to play a Parkersburg South and Zanesville on a weekend."
Park was nearly equal to the task in a game that saw 13 lead changes and eight ties.
Zanesville had a chance to win it late in regulation, getting the ball back with the score tied at 56 and 1:25 remaining.
The Blue Devils methodically worked the clock down, and with seconds remaining, Wibbeler drove through the lane but his shot was cleanly blocked by Phil Bledsoe.
Park gained its lone lead of the overtime, 62-61, when big post Chalmer Moffett scored on a putback with 1:20 left.
A three-point play by McFarland gave Zanesville the lead, and, more importantly, fouled Moffett out of the game.
To that point the junior had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Three of his baskets were on putbacks, the other two on post moves.
"He was huge," Aronhalt said. "We couldn't defend him. Him fouling out at that point certainly didn't hurt."
Bledsoe was also big, with his 11th double-double in 15 games. The sophomore finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Ryan Reinbeau led the Patriots with a 25-point effort and Smith added 11.
"We are going to get better from playing this game," Jebbia said. "We did a lot of good things tonight. We shot 48 percent. We outrebounded them by eight (36-28) and we only committed nine turnovers. We were a few plays away from beating a very, very good team tonight."
McFarland had 19 for Zanesville, followed by Wibbeler with 14, Wilson 12 and Bocook 11.
"That is a good team," Jebbia said. "There aren't a lot of other teams in the OVAC who are going to get on the phone and schedule Zanesville. But we have the courage to do it. And we are going to keep playing them. Hopefully playing this game will work out for us."
The game was the final one of the season, and the career of Park senior-starter Luke Saseen (four points), who will have surgery Tuesday to repair shoulder damage. The Patriots are scheduled to play Brooke in an OVAC semifinal game that night.