Park Holds Off JM in OT
King drains two big 3s to force extra period
WHEELING — Tournament basketball at its finest.
Wheeling Park needed overtime in turning back a spirited John Marshall effort in pocketing a 42-38 nod Friday night. In the process, the Patriots claimed a Class AAA Region One, Section One championship at the Palace On The Hill.
Coach Michael Jebbia’s charges will host Morgantown on Tuesday in regional play. The Monarchs must travel to University the same evening. The two winners punch their respective tickets to the state tournament.
“John Marshall played really well. We knew they would come in very well-prepared. They are a very improved team,” Jebbia said. “Our kids made some clutch plays down the stretch in regulation to force overtime. We showed a lot of poise with the game on the line.”
John Marshall appeared in control when senior standout Gunner Thompson goaled with 1:51 to go in regulation, giving the Monarchs a 38-32 lead. A key moment ensued on Park’s next possession as a missed shot was tipped back into the waiting hands of Patriot standout Keondre’ King who buried a trey to make it a 38-35 reading.
With only three team fouls against Park, Coach Chad Clutter’s crew went into delay mode.
The Patriots quickly fouled four successive times, finally sending JM to the free throw line with 1:13. The Monarchs misfired on the front end of a 1-and-1, giving the hosts renewed life.
King drained another three-ball with 55 ticks left to knot matters at 38-38. JM was subsequently called for a charging foul. Park opted to hold for one shot, only to turn it over with 4.1 seconds remaining.
After JM took a timeout, the Monarchs threw away the inbounds pass. Jebbia used his last timeout to set up one final play which came up empty as a corner 3 failed to drop.
The extra session was far from an artistic display of hoops as the teams traded missed shots and turnovers before Park sophomore ace Alex Vargo was fouled with 1:01 showing. He drained both freebies for a 40-38 Patriot lead.
After another Monarchs misfire, Vargo grabbed the rebound and was quickly fouled. He meshed both freebies for a 42-38 advantage with 18.7 seconds to play. JM again failed to connect from the floor with Park dynamo Jack Stakem rebounding to end the affair.
“We had our chances. We just couldn’t put them away,” Clutter said. “This is really a heartbreaker. We just didn’t do the things we needed to do to win. Only getting to the foul line four times really hurt us as well.
“Our kids have come a long way. This (a win) would have been a great way to take it to the next level. We just now need to regroup and get ready for University. They are a really good team but we will have a game plan and give it our best shot.”
Park had a trio of players reach double figures.
Sophomore center Travis Zimmerman led the Patriots with 13 points while Vargo and King delivered 11 and 10 markers, respectively. Vargo had eight boards for the winners and Zimmerman grabbed seven. Stakem, meanwhile, dished out four assists, recorded four steals and supplied some tenacious defense.
Thompson, a recent 1,000-point scorer, paced John Marshall with 10 points. Talented junior post Bryce Yoho netted seven tallies while sophomore Justin Frohnapfel recorded six points while also playing a strong floor game.
“It’s amazing. We didn’t hit a 3 the first three quarters and then we made three in the fourth quarter when we needed them. Keondre’s 3 was a huge play to get us back to within three,” Jebbia said. “We didn’t play our best offensively but give Coach Clutter credit. They mix in man, triangle-and-two and zone defenses. Coach A (Gene Ammirante) did a great job of getting us ready for the triangle-and-two. I thought Alex Dunlevy gave us a big spark off the bench. He has been starting and we decided to bring him off the bench (Friday) and he did a great job.
“John Marshall is a really good team. We expected to have a battle on our hands. We know what Morgantown is all about. They are a great defensive team. When we played them last time up here we were a little short-handed. Our kids look forward to the challenge and a chance to get to the state.”
Wheeling Park, which committed eight turnovers, improved to 14-8. JM dropped to 12-11. The Monarchs were 10 miscues.