Patriots Down Purple Riders
WHEELING — It wasn’t perfection, but it was close.
Wheeling Park clicked on all cylinders Friday night in running past Martins Ferry, 62-27, before a nice-sized crowd at Tolbert Gymnasium.
Coach Michael Jebbia’s well-drilled charges dominated in all phases while displaying large doses of athleticism, superb passing and defensive tenacity in winning for the ninth time in 11 starts.
The Patriots’ two blemishes this season have come against University (AAA) and Chapmanville (AA), both rated No. 1 in the state in their respective classes.
Martins Ferry, meanwhile, dropped to 8-6 and is on the OVAC 4A tournament playoff bubble. The Purple Riders play host to Shadyside tonight, seeking a repeat win over the Tigers.
Park and Ferry met in last year’s Sam Andy Classic at WesBanco Arena with the Patriots prevailing over the Purple, 60-53.
Jebbia could not have asked for a better start from his Patriots. Park scored the game’s first 17 points and never looked back.
All five starters scored to fuel the fast getaway. Senior all-stater Alex Vargo led the way with six points.
Ferry was unable to reach the scoring column until 10 seconds remained in the opening quarter. Junior ace Logan Smith ended the Purple scoring drought with two free throws.
“We moved the ball really well. We had 13 assists. So I am happy with that,” a pleased Jebbia said. “Travis (Zimmerman) and Alex (Vargo) did a great job of being defensive presences and Xavier (Morris) scored a career high for the second straight game. Shaheed (Jackson) really guarded well and stepped up offensively.
“I was a little worried coming off a big game with Meadowbrook and facing another quality team in Martins Ferry. But our guys were locked in all week in practice. We are just worrying about Wheeling Park right now. We know there are other good teams in the state but we will get to play them later.”
Park took a 29-12 lead into halftime and stretched the advantage to 46-21 after three frames. Jebbia emptied his bench with 5:17 remaining, holding a 57-24 upperhand.
Morris was simply sensational for the Patriots. The 6-foot-1 guard led all scorers with 21 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Jackson was next with 15 points while Vargo checked in with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Ferry was playing without the services of talented point guard Cody Olson, sidelined with a shoulder injury. Smith, returning after a several game injury-induced absence, topped the Purple Riders with seven points, a total matched by Ruben Hilson.
“If you told me before the game we held Vargo to 12 points and Zimmerman to two points, respectively, I would have said we would be in the game in the fourth quarter,” Ferry coach Derek Edwards said. “We knew going into the game we were overmatched in a lot of ways. They are a very talented team.
“We had to hold Vargo down and get Zimmerman in transition. We did a pretty good job of that but the guard play for them was tremendous. Hats off to those guys. Morris did a great job (Friday), Saunders controlled the game and we knew Jackson was extremely athletic. He did a great a job of finding holes in our zone and his teammates did a great job of finding him.”
Park committed just seven turnovers on the night. Ferry, meanwhile, was guilty of 21 miscues. The Purple Riders shot just 20 percent from the floor.
Saunders dished out seven assists for the Patriots as he turned in a flawless floor game.
“The beautfiul thing is we can move on from this. We know we have a lot of work to do but we can get the bad things out of our mouths (tonight) against Shadyside. We are excited about that opportunity,” Edwards said.
Park plays host to Brooke on Tuesday.