Park Edges Weir
It’s not often a team can shoot 3-for-10 from the floor and make only 6 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter and still hang on to win a basketball game.
Somehow Wheeling Park managed to do just that Friday night while staving off Weir High 53-50 at the Patriots gymnasium.
Regardless of how it happened, Park coach Michael Jebbia said his team will gladly take it.
”We needed to bounce back and get a win,” Jebbia said.
The Patriots were coming off a disappointing home floor loss to John Marshall on Tuesday night in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class AAAA Tournament. Wheeling Park, now 14-4 overall, was the top seed entering the four-team event while Weir (11-7) was seeded No. 2 before also losing in the semifinals to Indian Creek.
”I think both of us were hoping to be playing Saturday night for a championship, but that’s high school basketball. Things aren’t always going to go your way,” Weir coach Mike Granato said. ”We had foul shooting troubles of our own against Indian Creek when we made only 13 of 30. Tonight, we were 17 of 21 but we still lost.
”We had enough opportunities to win this game, but I’m proud to say that our kids played their hearts out.”
For Jebbia, the Patriots’ second victory this year against the Red Riders hopefully will provide a big lift as they look forward to what he regards as being among their most challenging weeks of the season.
”We play Fairmont Senior at home Monday night, Central on Wednesday and Parkersburg South back here Saturday. I think our kids are a little tired right now, so we’ll give them (today) off and just have a shoot-a-round on Monday before we play Fairmont,” Jebbia said.
The fourth quarter had to be a frustrating time for both teams. Park entered the concluding 8 minutes with a 40-33 lead and quickly pushed the advantage out to 10 at 45-35 after Scott Safcsak swished a triple from the left corner and Brad Guckert worked his way underneath the basket to hit a layup.
Pete Brogdon, Weir’s leading scorer who struggled against the Patriots by netting just 2 of 11 shots, finally tossed in a triple from the left wing, making it a seven-point game. It later became a 49-44 score at the 3-minute mark after a driving shot off the glass by the Red Riders’ Zac Miser, who led all scorers with 23 points.
After the Miser lay-in, Park’s problems at the free-throw line started showing up but the Red Riders couldn’t take advantage.
Worse yet, Weir was unable to come away with the rebound following three straight misses on one-and-one attempts by the Patriots. First Richard Hall, then Guckert and, finally Hall again were off the mark from the stripe. However, after each miss, Matt Pearson was able to beat the Weir defender and pull down the rebound.
The Red Riders eventually scored on a Miser layup, cutting the deficit to 49-46 with 90 seconds to play. Cody MacPherson then gave Weir another chance by stealing the ball and drawing a foul at the 1:16 mark. MacPherson cashed the first shot, but missed the second, a rarity as Weir was 11-for-12 from the foul line during the first three quarters.
Another steal gave the Red Riders a chance to tie but they lost control of the ball while trying to get it inside as the clock moved inside the 1-minute mark. After Guckert was fouled he made his first attempt and missed the second but, amazingly, Pearson won the rebound battle for the fourth time in the closing minutes.
D’Jhae Jackson netted one of his two free throws for a 51-47 lead that was cut to two points on a Brogdon baseline drive to the basket. Hall was hacked in the backcourt with 31 seconds to play. It was double bonus time and Hall dropped in the second attempt. Brogdon was fouled underneath the basket but he also netted just 1 of 2 at the stripe, leaving the Patriots in front 52-50.
MacPherson’s fifth foul of the game resulted in another 1 of 2 trip to the line for Hall. Needing a 3-pointer to tie. sophomore Shawn Burns attempt from at the top of the circle was off the mark. The Red Riders had a chance for the rebound but turned the ball over on a traveling call.
With just four seconds remaining, Hall’s inbounds pass to Guckert resulted in another Red Riders foul. Even though he misfired on both attempts, the Red Riders only had time for a desperation toss from out the backcourt that never had a chance to go in.
”Usually we are the team that makes free throws to close out a game,” Jebbia said. ”Fortunately we came up with some key defensive stops when he needed them. I thought Brad did a nice job defending Brogdon and holding him to nine points. He didn’t have a bucket in the first half.”
On the defensive end of the floor, the Patriots also were able to force Weir into 20 turnovers, including five in a row during one stretch in the third quarter. Jackson drew praise for his six steals and Jebbia also was pleased with Hall’s effort under the glass as he pulled down 11 rebounds.
Guckert and Hall also led the Park scoring with 12 points each. Miser was Weir’s only double-digit performer.
The Red Riders looked to have the upper hand early as Jebbia noted that his team came out flat for the first time all year. With the 6-foot-6 MacPherson blocking at least three shots in the opening minutes, Weir jumped ahead 6-0 on a Burns layup off the glass, a sky hook by MacPherson and Miser’s neat baseline move.
Granato’s club went on to lead 14-5 near the end of the first quarter before the Patriots closed with a 7-0 run as Pearson hit a turnaround shot, Guckert found the target with his trey attempt from the left wing and R.J. Vargo converted a steal into an easy layup.
Jackson’s jumper off the dribble pulled the Patriots into a 16-16 tie, followed by hoop and harm plays by Weir’s Miser and Park’s Hall. Safcsak buried a short shot off the glass, giving the Patriots a 21-19 lead and they never trailed the rest of the way.
Hall scored seven points in the second quarter as Park went out to a 32-22 advantage. All eight of Weir’s points in the second chapter were provided by the slick-moving Miser.
Weir’s eight turnovers and Park’s 4 of 14 shooting in the third quarter kept either side from doing much damage, but Vargo nailed a 16-foot jumper ahead of the horn to restore a 40-33 lead for the Patriots.
”We had a bad three minutes and that was uncharacteristic of the way we play,” Granato insisted.
Although disappointed with the loss, Granato believes the Red Riders will benefit from the difficult schedule they’ve played come tournament time.
”I think our schedule is as tough as anybody’s in the valley,” he said. Among their setbacks are two to Park and one each to Indian Creek, Magnolia, Wheeling Central and city rival Weirton Madonna, all of whom are having highly-successful seasons.