Wheeling Park Girls Defeat Morgantown

Photo by Kyle Lutz Wheeling Park’s Asia Roby (20) looks for an open teammate as she takes the ball down court during Tuesday’s game against Morgantown..

WHEELING — For three quarters Tuesday night Wheeling Park struggled from the charity stripe, hitting just 3 of 11 chances. However, with the chips down and the game on the line, senior Kylie McKennen and her teammates found their touch down the stretch.

McKennen hit 6 of 7 from the line in the final period, finishing with a team-high 18 points, and the Patriots were 9 of 13 in the final quarter to hold off Morgantown by a 62-56 margin in a battle of West Virginia-ranked big-school squads at Park’s Palace on the hill.

The victory is the second in as many outings on the young campaign for Coach Ryan Young’s Patriots, which entered the game ranked No. 5 in Class AAA, heading into their next two games against fellow powers Parkersburg South and Parkersburg.

Tuesday night’s contest featured four runs of at least nine points, two by each team, with each knocking down 21 field goals and Coach Jason White’s Mohigans holding a 13-12 advantage at the free-throw line.

However, the difference was the three-point arc, where Wheeling Park held an 8-1 margin, led by senior Brionna Gray burying four and sophomore Shanley Woods adding three bombs.

Trailing 39-35 with 3:27 to go in the third, a Woods bucket both started and ended a 13-2 run that closed the frame and sent the hosts into a 48-42 lead after three.

The Patriots quickly scored the initial seven points of the fourth also, capping a 20-2 spurt that put them into a seemingly comfortable 55-42 lead with 6:22 to go.

But Wheeling Park did not score for the next 4:25, as Morgantown went on a 10-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to 55-52. The Patriots’ next points came with 1:57 showing on a pair of McKennen charity tosses, but the visitors did not go away, cutting the margin to 58-56 with 44 seconds showing on Aleena McDaniel’s free throws.

McKennen then sealed the deal for her team, adding four free throws over the final 21 seconds to close things out.

“We talked in the locker room about the fact that there will be situations where 12 of 24 from the line might not get it done,” Young said. “But I think it is a situation that will help us in the long run, and make us a better team come February.

“The game looked like both teams had spurts that we know that is how our teams can play and both had spurts that looked like there were young kids on the court early in the season.

“Through two games we have shown that we can shoot the ball well and convert from the perimeter, but we have also showed we have the capability of going into dry spells. Luckily, our defense pulled us through in those times.

“It’s always fun to play Morgantown and we knew it was going to be a challenge, as it always is. When I looked at our December schedule before the season I wasn’t sure how many games we could win, but we have the first two with some more big challenges ahead.”

Morgantown struggled with turnovers early on, giving the ball away seven times in the first period and eight more in the third, but Park had trouble finding its touch early on.

After a 10-10 deadlock to end the third, Gray took over, scoring 11 of her 14 in the second period. But after leading by eight points in the frame, Park watched the Mohigans finish on a 9-2 burst to cut the margin to just 28-27 at the break.

“Give Park credit. They have a great group of kids there that gained some nice experience with the run they made to Charleston last year,” White said. “And their press really hurt us early on and caused us to turn the ball over.

“The big thing was that we were able to answer their runs and stay in the game with a couple of our own. I am very proud of how the girls hung in there. I was a little disappointed on the defensive side for us, and we gave them too many rebounds, but I think overall it was a pretty good game for the second week of the season.

“Games like this are a tremendous experience for a younger group of girls like we have. I think our kids really grew up a little (Tuesday).”

Freshman Bella Abernathy backed McKennen and Gray with 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Senior Aliyssa Neal tallied a game-high 19 points for 7th ranked Morgantown while Sydni Clawges added 14 and McDaniel 13 in a losing effort.