Patriots Hang on Against Big Reds

After watching a 16-point lead evaporate to 35-34 early in the third quarter, Wheeling Park relied on sophomore Richard Hall’s clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to defeat a young but hustling Bellaire squad, 67-58 Saturday night at the Patriots’ gymnasium.

Hall, who had just one field goal but netted eight of nine charity shots, went seven-for-eight in the fourth quarter as Park stretched its current winning streak to five in row.

The victory also extended the Patriots overall record to 9-3, matching their best record after 12 games since the 1997-98 season.

”We knew this was going to be a tough game going in,” said Michael Jebbia, the Patriots’ second-year head coach. ”They got three kids who can score and they really kept playing hard after we got out to that big early lead,” he added.

The trio of Ryan Feller, Anthony Hocker and Levi Crozier combined for 45 of the Big Reds’ 58 points. Hocker bombed in five three-pointers on the way to scoring 20 points, followed by Feller’s 16 tallies. Crozier didn’t reach double digits but he added to his nine-point outing by grabbing 13 rebounds as Bellaire won the battle underneath the boards, 29-28.

Bellaire, which has just one senior on the roster and a starting lineup made up of five underclassmen, dropped to 4-10. However, the Big Reds didn’t play anything like a team with double-figure losses three-fourths of the way through the regular season.

”There are no moral victories,” insisted Bellaire coach Gene Ammirante. ”But I couldn’t be prouder of our kids. It was very encouraging to say the least. When Park got up big early in the game, we could have hung our heads and given up. Instead, we kept playing hard. Hopefully, we’ll take something out of this that will make us a better team the next time we play,” Ammirante added.

The Patriots also got a big lift it needed during the opening quarter when senior forward Scott Safcsak nailed a couple of trifectas and scored 13 of his 18 points as the home team bolted into a 21-11 lead.

Safcsak’s classmate Matt Pearson also started the game with an offensive burst, twice accepting passes from the wing and scoring on easy turnaround shots. The lead expanded to 8-0 following a driving layup by Safcsak and Brad Guckert’s jumper from just inside arc.

Bellaire finally got on the scoreboard thanks to Crozier’s follow shot only to see Pearson hit another inside hoop. With the Patriots leading 12-5, Safcsak sandwiched a pair of triples around the first of Hocker’s five long-range bombs. After a Patriot steal, Safcsak turned in a conventional three-point play, driving to the basket for a lay-in, drawing a foul, and making the free throw for a 21-8 lead. Hocker closed the quarter with still another triple, putting Bellaire back to within 10 points.

”Scotty got off to a good start for us and we needed that,” pointed out Jebbia. The three-year Patriot letterman was held without a basket during Park’s win over Section One rival John Marshall this past Friday night and he has been struggling to find his shooting touch since coming back from an early-season ankle injury.

With the big early lead, Jebbia kept going to his bench in the first half, trying to rest his starters and giving some other kids a chance to play. RJ Vargo took full advantage of his opportunity by cashing all four of his bucket attempts to tally eight points in the second quarter, enabling the Patriots to open their advantage to 30-14, their biggest of the game.

However, the Big Reds then began getting the ball inside against the Park defense and this enabled the visitors to make their first run. Feller had six points in the quarter and Hocker added five, including another three-pointer, as Bellaire outscored the Patriots 14-2 the remainder of the half to pull within 32-28. With Park leading 32-23, the Big Reds closed the half with five points, a basket and free throw from Feller and an inside hoop from freshman Travis Crook.

Bellaire continued to force the issue during the third quarter and had an opportunity to possibly take the lead. With the score at 35-30 after Safcsak’s third triple, Feller got loose in the lane and netted a jumper while also drawing a foul. When his free throw attempt dropped through the twine, Bellaire was within 35-33.

The Patriots, who had just seven turnovers in the contest, gave the Big Reds another chance via a turnover. Brandon Metz then was fouled going up for a shot but missed both attempts. However, the 6-1 junior hustled inside to grab the rebound after the second shot and was fouled again.

This time, Metz connected on the back end of the two-shot foul, pulling Bellaire to within 35-34 with six minutes left in the half.

Hall’s two free throws, followed by Guckert’s runner and a D’Jhae Jackson stickback got the Patriots out of trouble as the lead was widened to 41-34. Down by eight late in the third quarter, however, Bellaire rallied once again, finally pulling to within 50-47 following a steal of a deep Park inbounds pass near midcourt and Hocker’s triple at the buzzer.

Bellaire moved no closer than three points in the final quarter as Park freshman Bubby Goodwin drained two jumpers off the dribble and Hall sealed the win with his clutch free throws. Safcsak had only two points during the final eight minutes but contributed a couple of critical steals to keep the youthful Big Reds at bay. With the score at 64-58 and less than a minute on the clock, Hall finally missed a 1-and-1 but the cat-quick Jackson jumped in to take away the rebound and also draw a foul. He made one-of-two at the line and later forced another Big Red turnover.

Although Jackson missed an open layup, Hall came up big on the offensive boards, was fouled and closed the scoring by netting both free throws with only 12 seconds to play.

Patriots Hang on Against Big Reds

After watching a 16-point lead evaporate to 35-34 early in the third quarter, Wheeling Park relied on sophomore Richard Hall’s clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to defeat a young but hustling Bellaire squad, 67-58 Saturday night at the Patriots’ gymnasium.

Hall, who had just one field goal but netted eight of nine charity shots, went seven-for-eight in the fourth quarter as Park stretched its current winning streak to five in row.

The victory also extended the Patriots overall record to 9-3, matching their best record after 12 games since the 1997-98 season.

”We knew this was going to be a tough game going in,” said Michael Jebbia, the Patriots’ second-year head coach. ”They got three kids who can score and they really kept playing hard after we got out to that big early lead,” he added.

The trio of Ryan Feller, Anthony Hocker and Levi Crozier combined for 45 of the Big Reds’ 58 points. Hocker bombed in five three-pointers on the way to scoring 20 points, followed by Feller’s 16 tallies. Crozier didn’t reach double digits but he added to his nine-point outing by grabbing 13 rebounds as Bellaire won the battle underneath the boards, 29-28.

Bellaire, which has just one senior on the roster and a starting lineup made up of five underclassmen, dropped to 4-10. However, the Big Reds didn’t play anything like a team with double-figure losses three-fourths of the way through the regular season.

”There are no moral victories,” insisted Bellaire coach Gene Ammirante. ”But I couldn’t be prouder of our kids. It was very encouraging to say the least. When Park got up big early in the game, we could have hung our heads and given up. Instead, we kept playing hard. Hopefully, we’ll take something out of this that will make us a better team the next time we play,” Ammirante added.

The Patriots also got a big lift it needed during the opening quarter when senior forward Scott Safcsak nailed a couple of trifectas and scored 13 of his 18 points as the home team bolted into a 21-11 lead.

Safcsak’s classmate Matt Pearson also started the game with an offensive burst, twice accepting passes from the wing and scoring on easy turnaround shots. The lead expanded to 8-0 following a driving layup by Safcsak and Brad Guckert’s jumper from just inside arc.

Bellaire finally got on the scoreboard thanks to Crozier’s follow shot only to see Pearson hit another inside hoop. With the Patriots leading 12-5, Safcsak sandwiched a pair of triples around the first of Hocker’s five long-range bombs. After a Patriot steal, Safcsak turned in a conventional three-point play, driving to the basket for a lay-in, drawing a foul, and making the free throw for a 21-8 lead. Hocker closed the quarter with still another triple, putting Bellaire back to within 10 points.

”Scotty got off to a good start for us and we needed that,” pointed out Jebbia. The three-year Patriot letterman was held without a basket during Park’s win over Section One rival John Marshall this past Friday night and he has been struggling to find his shooting touch since coming back from an early-season ankle injury.

With the big early lead, Jebbia kept going to his bench in the first half, trying to rest his starters and giving some other kids a chance to play. RJ Vargo took full advantage of his opportunity by cashing all four of his bucket attempts to tally eight points in the second quarter, enabling the Patriots to open their advantage to 30-14, their biggest of the game.

However, the Big Reds then began getting the ball inside against the Park defense and this enabled the visitors to make their first run. Feller had six points in the quarter and Hocker added five, including another three-pointer, as Bellaire outscored the Patriots 14-2 the remainder of the half to pull within 32-28. With Park leading 32-23, the Big Reds closed the half with five points, a basket and free throw from Feller and an inside hoop from freshman Travis Crook.

Bellaire continued to force the issue during the third quarter and had an opportunity to possibly take the lead. With the score at 35-30 after Safcsak’s third triple, Feller got loose in the lane and netted a jumper while also drawing a foul. When his free throw attempt dropped through the twine, Bellaire was within 35-33.

The Patriots, who had just seven turnovers in the contest, gave the Big Reds another chance via a turnover. Brandon Metz then was fouled going up for a shot but missed both attempts. However, the 6-1 junior hustled inside to grab the rebound after the second shot and was fouled again.

This time, Metz connected on the back end of the two-shot foul, pulling Bellaire to within 35-34 with six minutes left in the half.

Hall’s two free throws, followed by Guckert’s runner and a D’Jhae Jackson stickback got the Patriots out of trouble as the lead was widened to 41-34. Down by eight late in the third quarter, however, Bellaire rallied once again, finally pulling to within 50-47 following a steal of a deep Park inbounds pass near midcourt and Hocker’s triple at the buzzer.

Bellaire moved no closer than three points in the final quarter as Park freshman Bubby Goodwin drained two jumpers off the dribble and Hall sealed the win with his clutch free throws. Safcsak had only two points during the final eight minutes but contributed a couple of critical steals to keep the youthful Big Reds at bay. With the score at 64-58 and less than a minute on the clock, Hall finally missed a 1-and-1 but the cat-quick Jackson jumped in to take away the rebound and also draw a foul. He made one-of-two at the line and later forced another Big Red turnover.

Although Jackson missed an open layup, Hall came up big on the offensive boards, was fouled and closed the scoring by netting both free throws with only 12 seconds to play.