Wheeling Park Defeats Woodrow Wilson For 1995 State Championship
Patriots secure hardware with 99-96 victory in triple overtime
The 1995 West Virginia Class AAA state championship game between Wheeling Park and Woodrow Wilson is still considered one of the best high school basketball games in West Virginia history.
And if one wasn’t even at the game, quick research on the game would indicate that it certainly was.
Not only was the Charleston Civic Center packed with over 8,200 spectators, the game went to three overtimes. In the end, Wheeling Park came out on top, 99-96.
“There was a tremendous amount of talent,” John Mallett said, who was an assistant coach for the Patriots. “That always helps as a coach when you have a lot of talent. Fairmont and Beckley (Woodrow Wilson), they were very, very talented, also. Those three teams they could beat just about anybody they would play. All three teams were very, very talented.
“In culmination, there was size, there was great quickness. Our point guard Freddie Howard, he kind of gets lost in the shuffle. He was an outstanding point guard. He could move the ball up and down the floor. We had nice size. Shane (Mallett) and Justin (Namolik) were 6-(foot)-6 or so. Rafael (Cruz), he was about 6-1, but he was a tremendous jumper. Larry (Waldrum) was our defensive stopper. He was usually on their best player. It was a nice combination of everything. It was a nice starting lineup and a nice bench. We had good players on the bench.”
Indeed, the Patriots did.
In fact, Wheeling Park had to rely on their bench because four starters fouled out by the end of the game.
One of those role players was Michael Jebbia.
“I came off the bench all season. I was a role player. I do remember when we got into the state finals, we were well into the third quarter and Coach (Sam) Andy had not subbed at all,” Jebbia said. “He went with the five starters for the entire game. But foul trouble started to mount throughout the game. Beckley (Woodrow Wilson) didn’t have as much foul trouble.”
Howard was the last starter on the floor at the game’s end. He hit two free throws in the third OT period to give Wheeling Park the lead for good at 98-96.
Waldrum, Namolik, Cruz and Shane Mallett all fouled out.
Eric Zelaski went 1 of 2 from the free throw line with one second left. Missing his second attempt, Woodrow Wilson was able to grab the rebound and get off the final shot. The shot was unsuccessful and the Patriots claimed the hardware.
“It was a great game between two great teams who had great seasons the whole year,” Shane Mallett said. “We were lucky to beat Fairmont three times, which is something very tough to do. We played Beckley and it was a seesaw battle back and forth. It was like two heavyweight champs taking blow after blow. At the end, luckily we came out on top.”
Mallett led the Patriots with 34 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds to secure a double-double. Wheeling Park had four players supply double-doubles.
However, a huge play made by Shane Mallett on the defensive end forced the first overtime. Guarding Gene Nabors, who scored 18 points for Woodrow Wilson, he blocked a shot in the winding seconds.
Before Mallett’s defensive stand, the Patriots’ state title hopes seemed to almost be out of reach as they were down six with under a minute to play, 73-67.
Howard cut the deficit to three as he swished a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left. Cruz then tied the game as he drilled three straight free throws after he was fouled attempting a shot from behind the arc himself.
“There was no point during the game where we hung our heads and thought we couldn’t win this,” Shane Mallett said. “We had a very potent offense. I think we averaged almost 100 points a game. We knew we could score very quickly. A six, seven point lead, even with a minute, that’s still a lot of time in basketball.”
Wheeling Park, again faced a deficit in the first overtime in the winding seconds. Namolik, though, tied the game on a layup to force another extra period.
“It was a layup that I made 1,000 times,” Namolik said. “It’s one of things where I didn’t think it was any spectacular play but it was definitely a result of listening to my youth coaches growing up, listening to my dad about doing the Mikan Drill and finishing with both hands. I think it was just a result of that.”
Namolik also finished with a double-double for the Patriots as he totaled 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Wheeling Park started off strong in the second OT period as Shane Mallett scored eight consecutive points. However, it was Woodrow Wilson’s turn to rally. It was down by four, but was able to tie it to force the third overtime.
Kelvin Pannell had a game-high 40 points to lead Woodrow Wilson while Donnie Adkins turned in 15.
For Wheeling Park, Cruz tallied 24 and 10 rebounds while Howard netted 17 points and dished out 10 assists.