Morgantown comes out on top in heavyweight battle at Wheeling Park

WHEELING — The Morgantown Mohigans came out with the final blow in a heavyweight fight against the Wheeling Park Patriots on Wednesday, emerging with a 62-59 road victory inside the Palace on the Hill.

“Heck of a high school game,” Wheeling Park head coach Michael Jebbia said. “Weren’t many games played around the state tonight, so I’m grateful both school systems allowed us to play.

Aiden Davis scored a game-high 33 points for Park, making five 3-pointers and also grabbing eight rebounds, while Morgantown’s Sharron Young scored 29 points, going 11-12 at the foul line, along with seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.

Young scored 14 in the fourth quarter and went 6-6 at the line to keep Park at a distance late.

“Sharron Young made his free throws,” Jebbia said. “There’s good players all over West Virginia but I think you watched the two best in this gym tonight, Sharron Young and Aiden Davis going back and forth there.”

Though there were 11 lead changes through the night, Morgantown managed to hold the advantage at the end of each quarter, 13-10 after the first, 27-26 at halftime, and 40-37 after three.

Despite the victory, Mohigans head coach David Tallman evoked the language you’d expect from the losing side after the game.

“Wheeling Park just wanted it more than us tonight,” Tallman said. “They were way tougher than us. Their guys played way harder than us, they were hungrier than us, and I give their kids credit.”

Morgantown made a game-defining scoring run to start the fourth quarter, though their pull-away burst was perhaps sparked by a wing 3-pointer from Jacob King– assisted by Young– in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

The shot put Morgantown back ahead after Park had knotted up the score, 37-37, the possession prior.

“Two-time defending state champ, you’ve got to be able to knock them out,” Jebbia said. “And I thought King’s three at the end of the third quarter was huge, then they got a bucket or two to start the fourth. It was right there, tied, up one, down one, then they got a little bit of separation up to six or eight points. To our guys’ credit, we fought and got it back to two. Just ran out of steam there.”

An 8-2 run to start the fourth put Morgantown ahead 48-39, and the rest of the game went the way of Park nearly breaking through to even things, only for the Mohigans to stuff them back down, largely coming from Young scoring inside or at the free-throw line.

“We played harder,” Tallman said of his team’s fourth. “But we were still losing guys, we were just kind of running around, doing what we want to do. We’re not playing the way that we work every day in practice as far as team defense, team offense. Last few games we’ve had 20-plus assists, tonight I would be surprised if we had more than five. Very individual tonight and if we keep doing that we’re going to get beat multiple times.”

Aiden Davis made a deep 3-pointer to bring Park within six, 50-44 with 3:00 to play.

Later, Park’s point guard forced a live-ball turnover, triggering a double-team at the top of the key and forcing an errant pass which Mykel Davis picked off and dribbled down the court, finishing with a thunderous slam dunk which brought Park within two, 54-52 with 1:20 to play.

With the Palace rocking after the jam, Morgantown did not call a timeout, instead quickly inbounding and moving the ball down the court, fast-breaking after a make and getting an easy basket under the hoop from Brody Savage.

An acrobatic and-one from Aiden Davis moved the pendulum back to Park’s side a few possessions later, the ensuing free-throw making it a three-point game, 58-55, but another pair of Young free throws and a basket from Izzy Everett kept Park from ever being in a position to tie the game or take a lead.

Morgantown’s defense had Park working for every basket. Besides Aiden Davis’ 33, Mykel Davis scored 17, and the next highest scorer for the Patriots was Josh Huffman with five, both of his baskets coming in the fourth quarter.

“Their ball pressure on defense, getting after you, making every pass tough, that’s the biggest thing– and it’s no secret, so we tried to spread them out and keep the number of possessions a little bit lower,” Jebbia said. “If Morgantown scores their average of 80 points, we’re going to be beaten 80-60 or 80-65.

“We had to try and keep it in that realm, we just haven’t been able to get over the hump these last few years. I thought Aiden and Mykel carried us there with their offense,” Jebbia said. “It’s just not easy to score on them.”

There were a couple of close calls late – in one Mohigan possession with under a minute to go, the home Park crowd wanted a held ball where there was a foul call in the backfield against the Patriots. Later, on what would end up as the last possession of the game, Morgantown elected to take a foul once Aiden Davis crossed half-court. The junior flung up a 3-pointer at the whistle, one which miraculously went in, but the foul was called on the floor.

A Mykel Davis putback at the buzzer brought the score to its final resting place.

“We’ve got to get a lot better,” Tallman said. “I’m just being honest, these guys have big goals, they say they do, but if they do then they’ve got to buy in and do what we’re trying to teach them every day and get better. Honestly, credit to Wheeling Park, Aiden Davis is a heck of a player, he put on a heck of a show tonight, and we didn’t execute anything.”

Following Young’s 29, King finished with eight points, and each of Savage, Marty Johnson and Waylon Colistra had six. Seven Mohigans scored on the night.

“Our kids’ effort was great, it just was not quite enough,” Jebbia said. “The margin of error against Morgantown in very minimal and they made some key plays.”

By NICK HENTHORN/The Intelligencer

Morgantown 62, Wheeling Park 59
MORGANTOWN (62) – Frey 0 0-0 0; Everett 1 0-0 2; King 3 0-1 8; Young 9 11-12 29; Shrewsberry 2 0-0 5; Johnson 2 2-2 6; Colistra 3 0-0 6; Savage 3 0-0 6; Totals 23 13-15 62.
WHEELING PARK (59) – A. Davis 10 8-11 33. M. Davis 7 2-2 17; Johnson 0 1-2 1; K. Davis 0 0-0 0; Williams 1 0-0 3; Lewis 0 0-0 0; Huffman 2 0-0 5; Totals 20 11-15 59.
Three-point goals: Morgantown 3 (King 2, Shrewsberry). Wheeling Park 8 (A. Davis 5, M. Davis, Williams, Huffman).