University Rallies Past Wheeling Park, 63-52

Hawks outscore Patriots, 15-6, in fourth quarter to escape with win

Photo by Josh Strope Wheeling Park’s Alex Dunlevy, right, looks for someone to pass to against the defense of University’s Ethan Ridgeway.

WHEELING — Finally surging into the lead at 52-50 early in the fourth quarter, No. 2-ranked University brought the ball out and appeared to be comfortable dribbling out the remainder of the clock. In reality, the Hawks were trying to take Wheeling Park’s legs.

Sophomore Kaden Metheny ended that sequence with a layup and the Patriots were never the same.

University (4-0) outscored Wheeling Park, 15-6, in the fourth quarter on its way to a 63-52 victory Tuesday night at The Palace on the Hill. It was the first true test for the Hawks, who had run their first three opponents out of the gym.

”We knew this was going to happen because it’s never easy up here and I knew Michael (Jebbia) would have them ready to play, and he did,” University coach Joe Schmidle said. ”We were just beating ourselves in the first half because we weren’t being patient.

”I don’t think it was as much defense (in the fourth quarter) as it was patience. I think once we started making them play defense, their shots stopped falling.

”That was us in the first half because they were patient and worked the ball and made us play defense.”

The Patriots (2-1) took a 48-46 lead into the fourth quarter after sophomore Alex Vargo swished a 3-pointer from well beyond the right-wing arc at the buzzer. But Ethan Ridgeway scored on a putback to tie it to open the fourth.

Metheny hit a pair of free throws to put the Hawks back ahead before Jack Stakem answered with two on the other end to knot the score again.

”I have to say something about Jack Stakem because he’s just been great this year with his ball-pressure and his defense,” Jebbia said.

”For him to go back out there after spraining his ankle in the first quarter … he cares so much about his teammates and about Wheeling Park High School.

”He gutted it out.”

From that point forward it was all Hawks — mostly at the free-throw line. With the Patriots going cold and only connecting on one fourth-quarter basket, that was all it took. University connected on 12 of 14 at the foul line down the stretch.

”I was really proud of our kids’ effort. Just 365 days ago this game was over in about 3 minutes,” Jebbia said. ”We’re right there a couple plays away.

”I thought the difference was University having seniors and guys who are off a 23-, 24-win team last year making plays. It’s Ridgeway, (Austin) Forbes and an eventual Division-I point guard in Metheny, who is a sophomore who knows how to play with three and four fouls.”

The Patriots only turned the ball over 11 times, thwarting what to this point had been University’s bread and butter. The Hawks had made a living scoring easy baskets off opposing miscues, but Park was up to the task and took a 30-24 lead into halftime behind 12 points from Keondre’ King and another eight by Vargo.

Vargo scored consecutive baskets including a runout to give the Patriots a 39-29, third-quarter lead that forced Schmidle to burn a timeout. Looking back, that may have been the wakeup call the Hawks, and especially Forbes, needed.

Forbes scored 10 of University’s next 12 points including a step-back 3-pointer from roughly 3 feet beyond the line to cut the deficit to 42-41. King connected with his fourth and final 3 before Ridgeway tallied inside and Forbes converted a conventional three-point play to tie things at 45-45.

”Thank goodness for Austin Forbes,” Schmidle said. ”Austin is one of those players who is not going to do that for you every night.

”But when he gets in that zone like he was, he’s pulling up from 30 feet and he will make him. That’s just Austin.”

Forbes led all scorers with 26 points, all of which came in the first three quarters, while Ridgeway netted 19 and Metheny scored 14. Vargo — nine rebounds — and King, a junior, each tallied 18 points to pace the Patriots.

”They’re coming, too,” Jebbia said of the high-scoring duo. ”Those are the only two guys I have who are basketball 365 (days a year).

”They put the time in. They’re special and they’ve made some huge strides.”