Wheeling Park turns back Creek

WHEELING — It’s been a rough week for Wheeling Park basketball.

The Patriots had the unenviable task of facing University High twice in a three-day span. Coach Michael Jebbia’s squad dropped both outings to the state’s No. 2-ranked Class AAA squad by lopsided margins. That was after facing Morgantown and Parkersburg South last weekend. It is easy to see why Park has the No. 1-rated toughest schedule among the state’s 120 teams.

Things got a little easier Friday night as the Patriots held off late-charging Indian Creek, 51-43, in the OVAC Wheeling Hospital Championships 5A third-place game at The Palace on the Hill.

“It’s been a rough stretch to say the least,” Jebbia said. “We have been knocking heads with the best teams in the state.

“Indian Creek is no soft touch either. They are so well-coached, fundamental and gritty. I thought our kids responded well. It’s nice to get a win.”

The triumph was the 12th in 19 starts for Park. The Patriots, with nary a senior on their roster, visit formidable East Fairmont Wednesday.

Creek, meanwhile, dropped to 10-10 on the campaign. Coach Joe Dunlevy’s charges play host to St. Clairsville Tuesday night as the Redskins will stage senior night.

“I thought our kids played hard and intelligent. But we didn’t play intelligent enough for 32 minutes,” Dunlevy said. “To beat a talented team like Park we must play smart for the entire 32 minutes. We did not do that.

“Michael does a great job with his team. They are so well-coached. We made a nice run at the end to make it interesting. We just had too far to come back.”

Park was fueled by the talented tandem of junior Keondre’ King and sophomore Alex Vargo. King led all scorers with 21 points while Vargo added 14 tallies.

The Patriots took command on the strength of a 9-0 run to end the first quarter, forging a 17-13 edge. The hosts were never headed.

Park stretched its advantage to 28-18 at intermission and owned a 36-27 lead after three quarters. Dunlevy’s crew didn’t go without a fight, however, paring the deficit to four in the final minute. Austin Yaich’s hoop with 25.1 seconds left brought Creek to within 47-43.

Junior point guard Jack Stakem again proved the Patriot glue by meshing two charity tosses with 23.6 seconds remaining to calm the Creek. The Redskins misfired from the field with 11 seconds showing and subsequently fouled to seal their fate.

Stakem’s free throws were the exclamation point on a stellar all-around performance. He led all rebounders with nine caroms to go with three assists while turning into his usual superb floor game.

“We got a little sloppy in the end and let Creek get back into it. I can’t say enough about Jack. He does a lot for this basketball team,” Jebbia said. “I thought we defended well in the middle two quarters. It’s nice to get a win after the week we put in.”

Yaich led a trio of Redskin double-digit scorers with 16 points. Derrick Eakle and Austin Judson evenly divided 20 counters for the Redskins.

The contest was cleanly played. Park committed 10 turnovers, one more than Creek.

Wheeling Park 51, Indian Creek 43

Indian Creek 13-5-9-16 — 43

Wheeling Park 17-11-8-15 — 51

INDIAN CREEK: Crawford 0, 0-0 0; Eakle 4, 2-2 10; Judson 4, 1-2 10; Waggoner 3, 0-2 6; Yaich 6, 4-5 16; Norris 0, 0-0 0; Pugh 0, 1-2 1; Allan 0, 0-0 0; Robinson 0, 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17, 8-13: 43.

WHEELING PARK: Stakem 0, 4-4 4; Dunlevy 2, 0-0 4; King 7, 3-6 21; Vargo 6, 2-3 14; Goddard 1, 0-0 2; McWhorter 1, 0-0 2; Zimmerman 2, 0-1 4; VanSickle 0, 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19, 9-14: 51.

3-POINT GOALS: Indian Creek (1) — Judson; Wheeling Park (4) — King (4).