Park Girls Head to States

Patriots start fast, shut down Morgantown in region final

Photo by Josh Strope Wheeling Park senior Kylie McKennen cuts off a piece of the net after a regional final victory.

WHEELING — Wheeling Park is headed back to the state tournament. And while that isn’t a surprise to anyone who has watched the Patriots play this season, how they did it was the impressive part.

Wheeling Park shut down the Morgantown offense — which came in averaging 53 points per game — to the tune of 27-percent shooting and 32 total points. In fact, at the end of the third quarter, the Patriots led 34-17 — or if Morgantown was going to win, it was going to have to score more points in the final 8 minutes than it did during the first three quarters combined.

Along with forcing 18 turnovers, it all added up to a 46-32 victory for Wheeling Park in a W.Va. Class AAA Region One Co-Final at The Palace on the Hill, punching its second straight ticket to Charleston for next week’s state tournament.

“These kids deserve a lot of credit because when we lost Josie (Daugherty) after last year, some people thought we were going to take a step back,” Wheeling Park coach Ryan Young said. “I knew we had some young kids coming in that were going to help us out and I knew that our seniors have played a lot of basketball for us. We have a nice combination of youth and experience.

“We played defense (Tuesday) the way we know how and when we do that, we win a lot of games. We played a similar defense against them down there and we actually got out of it in the second half and allowed them to get back in the game. At the same time, I just wanted to get as much film on them as I could. This defense bothered them a little more and we went with it. When we subbed in, we didn’t have any drop off defensively. We battled a team that was bigger than us and it was just an effort thing for our kids and them sticking to the game plan.”

Wheeling Park (17-6) is slotted as the No. 4 seed and will take on George Washington (16-9) at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, March 8 at the Charleston Civic Center.

In order to get there, though, the Patriots had to win the rubber match against the Mohigans after the teams split their regular-season meetings.

From the beginning, it was the Patriots who looked to have the momentum. Morgantown wasn’t as bothered by Wheeling Park’s press as most teams, but turnovers in the front court, as well as missed shots didn’t allow allow it to get its offense on track.

Wheeling Park led throughout, holding Morgantown (18-7) to two points in the first quarter and went on a 11-0 run that put them firmly in control the remainder of the game.

The second half was much of the same. Wheeling Park started the third on a 9-2 run, the big basket coming on a steal and layup from senior Kylie McKennen.

“It means a lot for us to get to this point again,” McKennen said. “Last year we set the tone of going down state. No one thought we could do it this year and we worked really, really hard.

“It was tough. We lost some good players from last year and the competition was tough. Defense is what we do best. We knew Morgantown was a great defensive team and we knew we had to be a great defensive team back.”

Emily Pavlic and Brionna Gray paced a balanced Wheeling Park effort, scoring 11 points each. Bella Abernathy, who had a big bucket in the fourth quarter off a rebound of a missed Patriots free throw, finished with 11 boards. Not bad considering the 5-foot-10 freshman had to battle underneath with Morgantown’s 6-3 Kaitlyn Ammons.

Aleena McDaniel paced the Mohigans with 11 points.

“We got off to a rough start and we were really struggling offensively,” Morgantown coach Jason White said. “We did a lot better with their press than we have in the past so I was happy with that, but at the same time, we couldn’t get anything going. I felt we were really stagnant and standing around, but that is a credit to Coach Young. He did a great job scouting us. He got us in that 2-3 and really dared us to shoot it.

“I think early on we were tentative to do that and it was kids trying not to make a mistake and doubting themselves a little too much. We got better as the game went along, but we could never mount a run that was significant. That is a good basketball team and I wish them the best of luck in Charleston.”

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