Back-to-Back for Patriots
Park pulls away against rival JM
WHEELING — Wheeling Park and John Marshall are no strangers on the hardwood.
The rivalry commenced its third contest of the season Friday night at “The Palace on the Hill” in the West Virginia Class AAA Region One, Section One championship and the Patriots made it a perfect 3-for-3 with a 63-46 win over the Monarchs.
Along with picking up three wins against John Marshall during the current campaign, Park made it back-to-back sectional championship victories over its rival, as well.
“We knew they have been playing better,” Park coach Ryan Young said. “We’ve already beaten them twice and it is hard to beat a team three times, especially when they are rivals. So, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“They came in and played hard. I thought (JM) shot the ball well from the floor, but our kids did enough to win. We’ll have to play better on Tuesday, though.”
The win sets up a regional matchup between two powerhouse programs Tuesday night as Wheeling Park will host Morgantown at 7 p.m., while John Marshall will trek to Buckhannon-Upshur.
A constant strength of the Patriots all season has been its defensive press. Although the Monarchs were able to get the ball down the floor at times, turnovers still haunted the visitors.
John Marshall suffered 22 turnovers, while only gathering 14 takeaways.
“I said after the game that I hope our girls understand the difference between playing hard and playing well,” JM coach Brock Melko said. “Playing hard is completely on us and that is what we can control.
“I wouldn’t change anyone’s effort (Friday). I think we did everything we could do but we just didn’t play well. We didn’t make shots when we needed to, we missed too many layups, we got out of position a couple of times and the ball just bounced their way and that happens sometimes.
“In order to beat a team like that on their court, you have to play hard and play well. You can’t have a C-performance and expect to win on their court. They are just too good.”
One positive in the game for the Monarchs was the milestone reached by senior Avery Derrow. She drained a 3-pointer from the corner early in the action to surpass 1,000 career points, joining her sister Torie Derrow as the first pair of siblings to each record 1,000 points in John Marshall history.
“I’m glad it happened early,” Melko said. “Her first shot was forced and her second shot wasn’t a great look. I was thinking that the longer it prolongs, the worse it is for us. But she hit that 3 to get it and she really handled the situation well.”
The milestone trey capped a 7-2 run to begin the game for the Monarchs, but Park’s Kylie McKennen eventually took over the opening stanza with six consecutive points, which included a quick steal and a layup to give her team a 10-9 edge.
Wheeling Park held a 14-10 lead after one but kicked off the second frame on a 10-2 run behind 3-pointers from McKennen and Brionna Gray.
The 3-pointer was just the start of a strong quarter for Gray who recorded 11 of her team-high 16 points in the second. She also drew contact on a 3-point attempt and delivered on all three charity shots to help Park walk into the half with a 34-22 advantage.
The Monarchs struggled to cut into the deficit in the third but Shay Straughn did her best as she bucketed a pair of treys and netted eight points in the period.
The scoreboard read 52-42 in favor of the Patriots entering the fourth when they began to put on a defensive clinic.
Straughn supplied a pair of buckets in the final eight minutes and that was all the Monarchs got as Park outscored its rival 11-4 to roll to another sectional title.
“We were having a hard time staying in front of the ball,” Young said of his defense. “John Marshall was running a weave and we kept going to the kid giving the handoff.
“But we made an adjustment there to make sure we were switching every time to stay in front of them. Once we did that, things slowed down for them and they struggled to score.”
McKennen and Bella Abernathy each netted 13 points for the Patriots to follow Gray’s performance.
Straughn carried the load for the Monarchs with 22 points and eight of the team’s 16 field goals. Kaitlyn Groves added eight in defeat.