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Wheeling Park Takes Down Undefeated Fairmont Senior

Patriots Battle Back From Early 13-Point Deficit

Photo by Cody Nespor Fairmont Senior’s Marley Washenitz, right, shoots a 3-pointer while being defended by Wheeling Park’s Alexis Bordas, left.

WHEELING — Wheeling Park’s gauntlet of heavyweights continued Thursday night as the Patriots hosted previously-unbeaten Fairmont Senior for a bout in the Palace on the Hill.

Fairmont Senior came into the game as the top-ranked team in Class AAA and sported a spotless 13-0 record. Park, the number 4-ranked team in Class AAAA, pulled out a 63-53 triumph to hand the Polar Bears their first loss of the season.

“You can’t simulate any of this stuff in practice,” Park coach Ryan Young said. “Our kids are great in practice, but nothing’s going to prepare you for these games when you go up against these heavyweight teams. We have so many different situations we’ve been in, down big, up big, tight games at the end, a triple overtime game, it’s just been awesome. You can’t script it any better in terms of preparing for the end of the season.”

Fairmont Senior (13-1) came out of the gates firing on all cylinders Thursday and quickly built a big lead over the Patriots. Led by Division I recruit Marley Washenitz’s 13 points, the Polar Bears went on a 15-2 run and led 17-4 early in the game.

Wheeling Park (15-2) started off deploying its usual full-court pressure, but the Polar Bears, and especially Washenitz, were largely unbothered by it. That’s when Young called a timeout and the team switched to a 2-3 zone defense that proved to be much more effective.

“Marley came out real hot for them and dug us into a big hole,” Young said. “We subbed Jai’lah (Walker) into the game and when we did that we went into a 2-3 zone. We already knew that we were probably going to try it against them and we never really got out of it. It slowed them down a little bit and we were able to locate her a little bit better.”

Fairmont Senior led 20-12 after the first quarter, but by then the tides were already beginning to shift into Park’s favor.

A 10-3 run by the Patriots helped them cut the deficit to single digits and Fairmont Senior’s lead sat at just 30-24 at halftime.

In the third, Park tied the game at 34 on a 3-pointer by freshman Alexis Bordas then took their first lead of the game on a pair of free throws by fellow freshman Lala Woods. That was during a 12-point run for the Patriots that put momentum squarely on their side.

Despite not scoring in the first half, sophomore Natalie Daugherty netted 11 fourth-quarter points to seal the game for Park. Daugherty’s outburst included a perfect six for six effort from the free throw line.

“They say freshmen and sophomores grow up to become sophomores and juniors as the season goes on and I kind of think that’s where we’re headed with those kids,” Young said. “It’s a team effort, we are definitely a team that goes eight or nine (players) deep and in most games we need all eight or nine. This game is just another example of that.”

As a team, Wheeling Park was a perfect eight for eight from the line in the final frame.

“At the end of the game we handled the ball a lot better than we did against Morgantown and we made free throws. I told the kids that if we play like we did in the second half, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”

Woods finished with a team-high 19 points but Bordas (10) and Daugherty (13) had quieter scoring outputs than usual.

Sophie Abraham finished second on the team with 13 points, six of which helped Park stay afloat during that dour first quarter.

“Sophie Abraham was the MVP for us (Thursday) for sure,” Young said. “She kept us in the game when we were struggling to score.”

Washenitz finished with a game-high 21 points, including three triples. Meredith Maier, a Marshall commit, was second with 15 points and Laynie Beresford scored 12.

Over the last two weeks the Patriots have played Ohio powerhouse Union Local, Class AAAA No. 3 Cabell Midland, No. 7 Capital and No. 2 Morgantown with their only loss coming on the road at Capital.

“You can see them getting more comfortable, that’s what these games are for and that’s why we schedule them,” Young said. “All these games are going to prepare us for the end of the season so I like where our team’s at right now.”

Fairmont Senior presented a different kind of challenge than those other teams as the Polar Bears’ starting lineup was all seniors to go against the mostly underclassmen-led Patriots.

“That was one of the concerns,” Young said. “When we played Union Local and Morgantown, they have some youth too and their better players aren’t seniors for the most part. Fairmont starts all five seniors and when you have two Division I basketball players who are four-year starters, that’s a tough task and our kids really stepped up to the challenge.”

Wheeling Park’s next contest will be an OVAC semifinal game at home against John Marshall on Monday.

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