W.VA. PREP BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Wheeling Park Girls Have Unfinished Business
WHEELING — Ryan Young is poised to begin his seventh season as head coach of the Wheeling Park girls’ basketball team. He does so with somewhat of a bittersweet taste in his mouth.
Young’s Patriots compiled a sparkling 21-4 record last winter. By most standards such a hefty win total would reflect a very successful campaign.
But Young has built a program with lofty goals. Those 21 wins came up a victory shy of an OVAC championship as Park lost an overtime nod to Indian Creek in the conference 5A title tilt at Ohio University Eastern.
That tough-to-swallow defeat was compounded when the Patriots were upset on their home floor in the regional final by Morgantown, denying Young’s charges another trip to the state tournament.
With that being the backdrop, Park enters the season with some unfinished business. And while graduation stripped the Patriots of some nice talent, Young has plenty of quality performers back in the fold, including a blue-chip senior trio to make amends for those painful setbacks.
All-stater Shanley Woods tops the departure list which also included stalwarts Abby Snedecker, Kieran Johnson and Daisy Reasbeck.
“Last year’s team won 20 games and we had a great season but we came up short in the OVAC final and the regional final and those are always main goals for our program, so that was disappointing. We will be using that loss in the regional as fuel for this year’s team because there are a lot of players back from that team,” Young said. This year’s squad will be led by four-year workhorse Bella Abernathy. The multi-talented 5-11 post is one of the premier players in the OVAC as well as the state of West Virginia. She is a double-double machine every night out.
Also returning to the starting lineup is sweet-shooting senior Lindsey Garrison. The 5-7 guard is one of the area’s premier long-ranger shooters. Her role will expand more this season with the departure of Woods.
Savvy veteran guard Asia Roby also returns for starting duty. The 5-8 floor general effectively directs the potent Patriot offense. She is also a consistent scorer inside and out for Young’s charges.
“We return three starters in Bella Abernathy, Lindsey Garrison and Asia Roby. Shanley led us in scoring last year but those three were next on that list. Bella and Lindsey are the ultimate inside/out combo. Teams will have to account for both. Bella can also step away from the bucket and knock down shots and Lindsey has really been driving the ball well at practice and finishing so they will both make you respect their versatility,” Young said.
“Asia is our floor leader and is coming into a season fully healthy really for the first time since she was a freshman because of a knee injury her sophomore year. She is smart, knows our personnel and she can score it when we need her to. Maggie Stakem (5-7 forward) is going to be our “do-it-all” kid this year that will be similar to what we had last year in Kieran — she is our most consistent player.
“Zariah Marling (5-9 junior guard), Sophie Abraham (5-7 sophomore guard), Jai’lah Walker (5-11 junior center) and Abby Barki (5-6 junior guard) are all returning varsity players.
“We also have a transfer from Wheeling Central in Naliah Lekanudos (5-5 sophomore guard). She got a ton of varsity experience last year. We will have three freshman who will also compete for minutes and will get a lot of experience at the JV level — Merritt Delk (5-7 forward), Natalie Daugherty (5-6 guard) and Jillian Huffman (5-9 guard).”
“We believe the sky is the limit for this team, and we will be very deep — our seniors and juniors bring a ton of experience to the team and our younger kids are really athletic. Our practices are extremely competitive and I feel like the kids will truly make each other better day in and day out. That’s a huge advantage for us. The kids have been patient and now it’s their time to go out there and perform,” Young said.
Young’s staff is a quality one, featuring Brice Mills, Jack Kaniecki, Josie Daugherty and Samantha Gentile.