CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Wheeling Park’s girls basketball team is regarded as one of the top offensive squads in the state, one that can space the court and use its guard-oriented attack to cause problems for the opposition with penetration.
In Friday’s Class AAAA semifinal against Morgantown, the problems were few and far between for the Mohigans, who used another strong defensive effort to limit the Patriots to 17 points over the final three quarters and claim a 46-31 win.
“I have really good athletes that really want to sit down on defense, and they pay more attention to the way they defend than scoring the basketball,” Morgantown head coach Jason White said. “That’s pretty hard to find in this day and age.”
The victory allows No. 2 Morgantown (22-2) to face top seed Huntington in Saturday’s Class 4-A title game. It will mark White’s last game as Mohigans’ head coach before he moves to North Carolina.
“It’s kind of crazy to think my last game with these knuckleheads is going to be a state championship game,” White said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
In the opening quarter of Friday’s matchup — the fifth this season between the Patriots and Mohigans — it appeared that opportunity may not come to White, whose team trailed 7-2 and 11-5 after a pair of early 3-pointers from Park sophomore Natalie Daugherty. The Mohigans eventually cut their deficit to one, but a conventional three-point play from freshman point guard Lala Woods allowed No. 3 Wheeling Park (20-6) to hold a 14-10 advantage through one quarter.
“In the first quarter, everything we spent an hour and 20 minutes at Charleston Catholic talking about doing earlier today, we did not do.”
Park made 4-of-8 field-goal attempts in the opening quarter, but only 5 of 34 the rest of the way.
“They definitely play better defense than anybody in the state,” Wheeling Park head coach Ryan Young said.
MHS took its first lead at 15-14 on a Sadaya Jones layup, and after Revaya Sweeney countered a Sophie Abraham 3-pointer with a triple of her own to give the Mohigans a 22-20 advantage, Morgantown never trailed and settled for a 24-22 halftime lead.
Park missed all eight of its field-goal attempts in the third period, while the Mohigans got a 3 from Karrington Peasak, along with baskets from Lindsay Bechtel, Sweeney and Lily Jordan to lead 33-23.
“Our kids have embraced the fact that there’s more to the game than scoring the ball,” White said.
Sweeney’s triple with 5:51 to play enabled MHS to lead 39-25 as the Patriots never got the deficit to single digits over the final quarter.
“Coach is putting me in because he trusts me,” said Sweeney, who played 13 minutes in a reserve role. “The team trusts me. When I go in, I know I have to give it my all.”
Morgantown made 12-of-28 field-goal attempts after the opening frame, including 10 of 20 in the middle two quarters, when it seized control of the contest.
Bechtel registered a team-high 14 points to go with six rebounds, but it was her defense on Park freshman phenom Alexis Bordas that was of equal, if not more, importance. Bordas finished with four points on 1-of-13 shooting.
“Anytime they got the ball, I’m thinking where is she and I have find her and sprint to her,” Bechtel said. “i have to stay so close to her, keep her in front of me and not let her get open.”
Jones scored 11 off the bench and led the Mohigans with seven boards. Sweeney added nine points and six rebounds.
Morgantown finished with a 39-29 rebounding advantage.
Daugherty’s 16 points paced the Patriots, who didn’t have another player with more than seven points and had only four score.
“Morgantown had us off our game all night,” Young said. “We didn’t play our best game, but they had a lot to do with that. You beat a team like us four times, that’s impressive. Maybe not so much our youth, but the inexperience of playing together, at the end of the day, is what separated us from Morgantown.
“But we’ll be back. We’ll certainly use this offseason to make corrections.”
(Morgantown postgame press conference)
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism