Wheeling Park wins 3rd straight over Morgantown to claim section championship

WHEELING — For the third straight time this season and the sixth in the last two campaigns, Wheeling Park has defeated Morgantown in girls’ basketball action.

The latest Patriots’ win, 73-53, came Friday night inside the Palace on the Hill in a Class AAAA Region I, Section 1 final.

Wheeling Park entered the game ranked No. 2 in the latest state poll, with the Mohigans (15-8) two spots behind. Morgantown, which was playing without all-stater Lily Jordan, defeated the Patriots (20-4) in December in Morgantown. Jordan is reportedly nursing a hamstring and hasn’t played since the OVAC Class 5A championship game on Feb. 3 at Harrison Central High School in Cadiz, which Wheeling Park prevailed, 68-53.

“I thought we were a little bit off on defense early on but we settled down. There was a lot of emotion tonight,” Wheeling Park head coach Ryan Young said. “Give Morgantown credit, however, they were playing without one of the top players. They played hard the entire game. They make you earn your points.”

The contest started at a frenetic pace with eight lead changes and three stalemates in the first quarter. Deadlocked at 11, Wheeling Park took the lead for good when Lala Woods splashed in one of her three trifectas. Following a basket by Morgantown’s Kayli Kellogg, the Patriots ran off seven of the next nine points for a 21-15 lead after eight minutes.  

Baskets by Merritt Delk and Woods to start the second quarter built the margin to 10, 25-15, but the Mohigans cut the deficit to six, 32-26, on a Sadaya Jones trey with 4:07 on the clock. However, the battle-tested Patriots reeled off 10 unanswered points and 13 of the final 17 of the half for a 45-30 advantage.

Morgantown couldn’t get the margin to single digits as many of their shots went in and came back out of the basket.

“First of all, give credit to Wheeling Park. They played very well tonight,” Morgantown head coach Doug Goodwin said. “We let the game slip away from us late in the second quarter and then we couldn’t get shots to fall. We had good looks, but the ball just wouldn’t go in.”

The Mohigans shot 32.8 percent (21-64) from the floor and a dismal 46 percent (6-13) from the foul line. The Patriots were 26 of 53 from the floor (49.1 percent), including a sizzling 10–for-24 (42 percent) from behind the bonus arc. 

According to Young, Delk, a senior who is the first sub off the bench and will play soccer at NCAA Division I Toledo, gave his team the spark it needed when she was inserted into the game in the first quarter when Seneca Heller collected her second personal foul at the 5:40 mark. She scored four points, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked a career-high six shots and played solid defense.

“Merritt was unbelievable. She was our MVP tonight,” Young noted. “She was all over the floor. We were struggling to rebound the ball in the second quarter and she came in and cleaned that up.” Delk had five of her boards in the quarter.

Young also praised the play of senior Jillian Huffman.

“I can’t say enough about what she has meant to our team this season,” he added. “She has been really, really solid for us in the middle. She’s hard to guard and we knew she had a little bit of a mismatch there.”

Woods led four Patriots in double digits with 20. Alexis Bordas added 18, Huffman 15 and Natalie Daugherty 12, with all of hers coming on triples. The second came from the right corner with 1:54 left in the first quarter and gave her 1,001 points for her career, making her the 10th female to reach the milestone and the third on the current Wheeling Park team. Bordas is over 2,000 and Woods reached 1,000 earlier this season.

“It’s pretty amazing to have three players with more than 1,000 points on the same team. That’s a lot of points,” Young continued. “Natalie deserves it. She’s come through this program for four years. She’s grown into a really, really good player. She might be the most underrated player in the state, but when you’re on a team with Alexis and Lala, it’s hard to see what she actually brings to our team. It’s a lot.”

Daugherty said it was nice to reach the milestone.

“I was thinking about it all day, but I knew it was going to come eventually. I’m glad it came in this game. I have to give my teammates thanks for getting me the ball.”

Morgantown was led by Kellogg with 20. Jones had 11, Sophia Wassick nine and Lucie Hatcher eight. Hatcher also had a game-best 10 rebounds. Kellogg had seven and Jones six.

Wheeling Park led 39-32 off the glass as Bordas snagged eight. She also charted five steals. Daugherty and Huffman had six boards each.

Wheeling Park returns to action Thursday as it hosts Preston, a 60-29 loser at University on Friday, in a Region I matchup at 7 p.m. The winner advances to the state tournament in Charleston. Morgantown, meanwhile, will meet the Hawks, also on Thursday at 7, in a cross-town battle.

Wheeling Park had 11 turnovers, which was two less than Morgantown.

BY KIM NORTH/The Intelligencer

Wheeling Park 73, Morgantown 53
MHS   15   15   14   9  –  53
WP 21  24  17  11  —  73
MORGANTOWN (53) – Wassick 4 1-3 9; Jones 4 1-5 11; Kellogg 8 2-2 20; Smith 1 0-0 3; Hatcher 3 2-3 8; Howell 0 0-0 0; Paulsdon 1 0-0 2; Totals: 21-64 6-13 53.
WHEELING PARK (73) – Bordas 4 8-8 18; Woods 7 3-6 20; Daugherty 4 0-2 12; Huffman 7 0-0 15; Heller 2 0-2 4; Delk 2 0-0 4; Hicks 0  0-0 0; Totals: 26-53 11-18 73
Three-point goals: Morgantown 5 (Jones 2, Kellogg 2, Smith). Wheeling Park 10 (Daugherty 4, Woods 3, Bordas 2, Huffman)