Abernathy, Wheeling Park Roll By Monarchs

Photo by Cody Tomer Wheeling Park’s Emily Pavlic races up the floor as John Marshall’s Anna Blake (20) and Kaitlyn Groves give chase.

WHEELING — John Marshall Coach Brock Melko had a plan coming into Wednesday night’s key girls’ basketball clash against fellow West Virginia big-school power, and arch-rival Wheeling Park.

That plan was to slow down Patriots’ sharp-shooter Shanley Woods and do all the things that have been working during a seven-game winning streak the Monarchs brought up on the hill.

While John Marshall’s defense, particularly junior Abby Blake, did a great job on Woods, who did not have a field goal until the fourth quarter, little else went as planned for the visitors.

Sophomore Bella Abernathy posted a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds and Wheeling Park’s defense did the rest by holding the Monarchs to five field goals during the final three quarters of play in rolling to a 52-27 repeat victory over its Section One rivals at The Palace on the Hill.

Coach Ryan Young’s Patriots (9-2), ranked No. 4 in Class AAA entering the night, traded leads with seventh-ranked John Marshall (8-3) early on with the visitors taking their final lead at 12-11 on a Lakyn Groves hoop with 1:19 showing in the first quarter.

That was the beginning of the end for the Monarchs, who did not score again until senior Shay Straughn’s banked-in 3 stopped a 15-0 Patriots run. It also ended a scoreless streak of 8:23 for John Marshall and was its only points of the quarter.

After taking a 28-15 lead to the locker room Wheeling Park returned to the court and quickly used a 9-0 blast to push the margin to 37-15. That run was keyed by a pair of Abernathy baskets followed by a 3 and another basket from senior Emily Pavlic.

When Groves finally hit John Marshall’s next field goal at exactly four minutes of the third quarter it was only the second for the Monarchs in a span of 12:23. The visitors were able to cut the deficit to 40-22 after three.

Overall, John Marshall finished the night with nine field goals in 39 tries for 23 percent. The Monarchs made four field goals and scored 12 points in the first quarter but were 5 of 27 from the floor with 15 total points during the final three periods.

“After the first quarter we switched our defense and went from the press, which was not moving well for some reason, and decided to man-up, which worked well and allowed us to force them into some mistakes,” Young said. “Everybody really stepped up for us.

“They did a good job shading Shanley, but we have so much confidence in our other players and if Shanley isn’t scoring, Bella is normally our next-best option. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but we got it done.

“John Marshall had been on a nice winning streak and we know that Shay (Straughn) is a heck of a player and the Blake twins are always tough to handle. They have gotten a lot better since the first time we played them.”

Abernathy was Park’s only double-figure scorer while Pavlic finished with nine points and Woods ended with seven, five of those coming in the fourth quarter after things had already been decided. The Patriots grabbed a 35-22 edge off the glass and turned the ball over 18 times, three less than their guests.

Straughn paced John Marshall with 13 points while Groves added six off the bench, all in the first quarter.

“That’s what happens when you settle,” Melko said. “We know what our identity is and so does everyone else. It’s to be aggressive going to the basket and get to the free-throw line. We average 24 trips to the line a game because of our aggressiveness, but we got there just 10 times (Wednesday) and we aren’t going to win many games doing that.

“For some reason we tried to become jump shooters. And when we were able to get around the rim we got a little passive and weren’t our usual aggressive selves. And there is no question that a lot of that was due to their defense which is very good.”

“Overall, I believe our defense was good enough to win, and I know we are a better team than that. We played smart on defense and we knew coming in who we wanted to stop from getting shots off and I thought Abby Blake did a great job on Shanley (Woods).”

Wheeling Park had opened the season with an 83-39 victory over the Monarchs in Moundsville with John Marshall winning eight of its next nine heading into last night.

“We know they are a good basketball team and the kids fully realize that come February they are going to be a team ready to challenge us,” Young said.

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