Wheeling Park Girls Fall to Morgantown, 41-32
BY ANDREW SPELLMAN
The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN — Nearly one year ago, Morgantown and Wheeling Park were battling for a spot in the girls’ state tournament and a Region One crown. This year the two regional powers were in another tight match, but this time for the Section One title.
Unlike last year’s heart-racing game that came down to a last-second bucket by Cat Wassick, Friday’s game came down to late-game free throws by her sister, Sofia, as the Mohigans (10-2) pulled away for a 41-32 victory.
For Cat –who was an equalizer all night — to defeat the Patriots and win the Section alongside Sofia made it more special. Additionally, this is the first time in five years the Mohigans will host their half of the regional tournament.
The Mohigans and Patriots (14-3) both opened with hot hands, as Park hit two quick 3s and Morgantown put four points on the board behind Kaitlyn Ammons and Cat Wassick.
Things slowed down as both teams’ speed led to plenty of miscues, but Naliah Lekanudos and Wassick traded long treys to knot the score at 10 with under a minute in the quarter. The teams traded trips to the free throw line and a quick coast-to-coast layup gave Park a three-point edge at the end of the first, 14-11.
A slow start to the second quarter saw a scoreless three minutes snapped by a Bella Abernathy bucket at the top of the key, and after a defensive stop by Ammons in the post, Park’s assistant coach was called for a technical, allowing Ammons to cut the deficit back to four at the line. A fast two points by Ammons in the post on the next possession, foul by Park and bucket by Mia Henkins knotted the score once more. Lindsey Garrison snapped back with a 3 to maintain Park’s lead, and a late trey by Lekanudos pushed Park further going into halftime, 21-18.
After another slow start in the third, Morgantown secured its first lead of the game when Ammons sank two free throws. Neither team could get on the board again until near the 2-minute mark when Wassick was fouled and pushed MHS’s lead to three at 27-24. In the final seconds of the quarter, Ammons secured a putback to push the lead to five.
Whether pressure or fatigue from a physical, fast-paced game, Park’s early miscues in the final quarter — turnovers, bad defensive rebounding and a slew of shooting fouls — allowed Morgantown to push the lead more early on. The Patriots fought back with a stifling press, bringing the deficit to four at the 3-minute mark, but more fouls and unlucky bounces for Park allowed the Mohigans to secure the win down the stretch.
Despite only making three field goals in the second half — and none in the fourth quarter — the Mohigans were able to lock down the Patriots defensively, only allowing 11 points in the final half.
Moving forward, both have their eyes on the first Class AAAA state title. But first comes Buckhannon-Upshur, who lost to University in the Section 2 championship. If they defeat the Buccaneers, the Mohigans should have a solid placement in the state bracket, which is voted on by coaches.
Ammons led the Mohigans with 14 points, while Cat added nine. Garrison paced the Patriots with nine.
Up next for Wheeling Park is a road game at University to face the Hawks in the second half of the Region I tournament. The winner will advance to the state tournament.