ST. CLAIRSVILLE - One hot player. One hot team.
Morgantown jumped all over Wheeling Park early, then held off the Patriots' late rally to take the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference 5A Championship on Saturday at Ohio University Eastern
Scottie Core poured in 25 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, to spur the resurgent Mohigans, who had lost to Park by 25 points earlier in the season.
Photo by Dave Morrison
Morgantown’s Antonio Morgano (11) brings the ball up court as Wheeling Park’s Elijah Bell (4) looks on.
Clearly, it wasn't the same Morgantown team, which has beaten Martinsburg, Parkersburg South and now Park, all teams that have been in the Class AAA Top 10 at different points this season.
Morgantown started quickly, leading by as many as 13 points in the first half.
At times, it seemed like the Mohigans couldn't miss. Even big man C.J. King, who at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, was the biggest man on the floor. He hit both his 3-point attempts in the first half.
"That was important," Tom Yester said of the first-half run by the Mohigans. "What Park likes to do is blitz teams and you end up playing catch up and you can't do it because they are so athletic.
Wheeling Park coach Mike Jebbia knew first half spelled trouble.
"That was classic deep-hole syndrome," Jebbia said. "We got so far behind we had to expend a lot of energy just to get back in the game."
Park (12-5) woke from its lethargic play for a moment near the end of the first half," using a 6-0 run to cut a 12-point deficit in half to make it 37-31.
But just like that, Morgantown found a spark, using a 5-0 run in the final moments of the first half to lead 42-31 at the half.
"We get it down to single digits there, who knows, maybe it's a different game," Jebbia said. "As it was, it was a pretty key run for them right there."
Park went to a 1-3-1 press in the second half and it started paying dividends, getting the Patriots back in the game.
Elijah Bell, who was making his first career start, got a steal and an emphatic slam dunk to cut the Mohigans lead to four in the fourth quarter.,
Park got as close as three points, but the breaks kept going against the Patriots.
One time, Savion Johnson, who played well off the bench, seemed to have a rebound corralled with Park making a run in the third. It bounced out of his hands to Zakeem Divas for an easy stick back.
Core also countered with several big shots in the fourth and Morgantown went 12 of 15 at the free throw line in the final eight minutes.
"Whenever they needed a shot, or needed a big play, they got it," Jebbia said. "I give them a lot of credit because they really played a great game and they made the plays they had to make to win the game."
"It is huge," Core said. "We wanted to come out, play well, and not just win this championship, but try to earn a home game (in the postpones). We have a pretty good home-court advantage with our fans."
Park was led by Ryan Reinbeau's 18 points, all but two coming in the first half.
"We wanted to make things difficult for Ryan, but he played really well in the first half," Yester said. "I thought we played pretty well aside from that in the first half."
Bell had 17 for the Patriots.
Park did have good play off the bench during its third quarter comeback, from Johnson, Chalmer Moffett and Richard Cummings, who had six points in his first extended action of the season.
"Richard came in and did a good job," Jebbia said. "We are looking for an eighth man and I though Richard showed he deserves a chance to do that."
Aside from Core, whose 25 points was the most by a player in the 5A championship game since it moved to OUE seven years ago, Antonio Morgano had 13, King 12 and Steven Soloman 11.
The 76 points Morgantown scored was the most Park has given up this season.