Ohio County Continues Mastery of Steelers

WHEELING – Fawn Thomas, one of the organizers for the annual Ohio County Relay For Life charity basketball game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Footballers, is starting to get a little nervous.

In its fourth year, the local team had won two of the first three games, the kind of thing that eats at the pride of a professional athlete, even if he’s playing chess.

So when Thomas looked at the scoreboard in the second half Friday night and saw the Ohio County team, led by 17 points each from Nathan Dolan and D’Jhae Jackson, was out in front again, ”I said, ‘Oh, no, we’re winning. I want (the Steelers) to come back next year,’ ” she joked.

They’ll have to take a wait-and-see approach there, as the Ohio County team, again, beat the Steelers, this time by an 85-75 count at Wheeling Park High School.

”It was a competitive game throughout,” said Michael Jebbia, Wheeling Park’s boys’ basketball coach who volunteers his time to serve as coach for the local team. ”I think when the Steelers come here, they know it’s going to be competitive.”

Still, in games like this, there really are no losers.

”It was fun,” Jebbia added. ”We thank them for coming down on a Friday evening. We’re really pleased with the crowd. We weren’t real sure how the crowd would be. Maybe the rain helped. We thank the community for the support.”

Thomas agreed.

”I think we raised a lot of money and the people who came out really got a lot for their $7,” she said.

Antonio Brown, who was late showing up to the game, led the Steelers – and all scorers – with 27 points. He was the most recognizable player among the Steelers contingent. Also playing for the Footballers was former West Virginia University standout Morty Ivy, who had 19 points, Alemda Ta’amu, Isaiah Green, Kelvin Beachum, Hebron Fangupo, Ross Ventrone, and Chris Carter.

The Ohio Valley team, a mix of doctors, lawyers, writers, and former area basketball stars, featured a roster of Shaun Black, Bernie Dolan, Dr. David Ghaphery, De’Vaughn Gordon, Maqsood Harrington, Ben Howlett, Dr. William Mercer, Shawn Rine, Puff Savage, and Steve Vogrin to go along with Nathan Dolan and Jackson.

There could be no arguing about playing time, either, as Jebbia employed hockey-style line changes every 4 minutes from start to finish.

”We kinda went with that last year,” Jebbia said. ”We had some guys with basketball experience. We mixed them in each group and just went with it that way. As they get older, they’re not going to be able to play much more, although they think they can.”

Ohio County held a two-point lead at halftime at 39-37 on a Jackson lay-in and was up by 10 at 54-44 on a floater by Black before the Steelers charged back. They tied it at 59-59 on a 3-pointer by Brown, who had seven 3s in the game, and went ahead 67-63 with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter on yet another Brown 3-pointer. From there, Ohio County used a 22-8 run to close it out, highlighted by a trio of 3-pointers by Nathan Dolan.

In the end, they were able to raise a lot of money for the Ohio County Relay for Life and awareness of cancer, as they’ve successfully done since they started this game in 2010.

”The Ohio Valley is very generous and we really appreciate that,” Thomas said.