Local Sports, Sports, University

University boys drop road game to No. 5 Wheeling Park

WHEELING – The University Hawks got off to a 7-0 start Friday against the No. 5 Wheeling Park Patriots through the first three minutes of their contest.

But as the game clock struck 5:00, it was Freaky Friday inside the Palace on the Hill. The two teams flipped places, and the Patriots ripped off their own scoring run, going ahead 13-7 by the end of the first quarter, stretching out their lead to 11 by halftime, and enduring a frantic last-minute comeback try by the Hawks to secure a 63-50 victory.

Aiden Davis scored 35 points for Park, a copy-and-paste of his total from the two teams’ last meeting, to secure a double-double along with 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Davis got better as the game went on, scoring 22 in the second half.

“With Aiden, of course you’re going to see the 35 points,” Wheeling Park head coach Michael Jebbia said. “But 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, only two turnovers while being pressured and harassed by a lot of different players by University, they were throwing a lot of different people at him.”

“We wanted to shut Aiden Davis down. We held him to 35,” University head coach Joe Schmidle said. “I think that’s two games he’s had 35, so that’s how good of a job we’re doing executing that gameplan. Nothing that we wanted to do on him worked. First guy we had guarding him was in foul trouble the whole game, [Ethan] Jackson, was in foul trouble the whole game, that didn’t help.”

Both teams produced at the foul line, but the Patriots maintained a slight edge. Park shot 20-23– 87%– at the foul line against University’s 14-19 performance.

“We’re shooting 70-72 percent as a team, which is really good,”  Jebbia said. “We work on it, but we also preach to the guys to get them in on their own, not just in our practice sessions. When we have No. 1 going to the line, that’s usually a good thing, he went 10-11. But other guys– Kaiden Davis hit two, Mykel goes 5-6, it was a full team effort.”

‘A slight edge’ characterized a lot of the statistical head-to-heads between the teams, Wheeling Park winning the rebounding battle (29-27), turnovers (9-7) and assist margin (6-3), but not blowing the Hawks out of the water in any category.

Park shot 43% from the field while University shot 35%.

James Fortney-Garbart led the Hawks with 13 points, followed by Eli Karpinski with nine, Carson Ford with eight and Noah Kleeh with seven.

After the game, Schmidle was frustrated by his team’s performance.

“I’d like for us to learn how to make layups,” Schmidle said. “If we can do that we might be able to win a game. If you can’t make layups, you’re not going to win too many basketball games. We missed over 12 of them.”

For Park, Mykel Davis followed Aiden Davis with 19 points, also grabbing six rebounds.

After surging back to take a 13-7 lead after the first quarter, Park stayed hot and led by as much as 17, but consecutive stops and baskets to close out the half put the Hawks within 11 going into the locker rooms.

After such drastic back-and-forths throughout the first half, the game stayed between seven and 11 points in the third quarter. Aiden Davis converted a four-point play on a corner three with six minutes to play in the third, and Park led 47-39 going into the final frame.

“We didn’t keep the ball out of the middle of the floor,” Schmidle said of his team’s defense. “We had that lead in the first quarter and we just started letting them dribble penetrate to the middle, getting easy ones. We had no help-side defense there to help on the dribble-drives.

“That’s stuff we’ve been working on and working on, and people aren’t getting where they’re supposed to be, so they didn’t play after that. I went with my younger guys, I thought my younger guys played pretty well and at least got us back into the game.”

Of note was the absence of Park starting sophomore guard Amare Johnson, who sat out the second half due to injury.

“We had a little bit of adversity there with Amare Johnson, his back, not being able to go,” Jebbia said. “We had some guys step up, Josh Huffman, J.D. Williams had more minutes, they’re sophomores. Kolten Whitmire came in at the end, another sophomore, went in and played some good defense. Amare was out, and some other guys had to step up. Thankfully Aiden and Mykel carried the load of scoring, 35 and 19.”

The deficit remained mostly static, Park playing a patient game on offense, but Kleeh sent a jolt through the hardwood with back-to-back 3-pointers, the second of which was punctuated by an and-one foul call for a four-point play of his own. With 1:21 showing, University trailed by just five

“You look at the stat sheet, they only hit three, it felt like they hit 10,” Jebbia said of University’s late shooting. “Some tough 3’s there to keep it close. Then we foul a 3-point shooter– we made some mental mistakes. But University also made some plays to come back into the game, let’s give them some credit.”

Unfortunately for the visitors, they could not find the bottom of the bucket the rest of the way, each point-less possession leading to an intentional foul, and Park was not missing from the foul line Friday in closing out the contest.

“We played a solid game,” Jebbia said. “The first two minutes of the game were not good. The last two minutes of the first half were not good. We were outscored 7-0 to start the game, 6-0 to end the half, we had it up to 16 or 17 points there. But with that being said University has a lot of depth, a lot of good shooting, a lot of experience. They’re going to keep plugging away, they made some big shots. [James Garbart] is a very good player.”

Wheeling Park draws rival Brooke in the upcoming OVAC Tournament Semifinals. That game is set to tip off at 7 p.m. on Feb. 6.

University will host Parkersburg South that same day in the conference consolation pool.

By NICK HENTHORN/The Inteligencer

Wheeling Park 63, University 50
UNIVERSITY (50) – Garbart 5 2-3 13; Jackson 0 1-3 1; Coleman 1 2-2 4; Demidovich 2 2-2 6; Ford 3 2-4 8; Hudson 0 0-0 0; Karpinski 3 3-4 9; Byrer 0 0-0 0; Henderson 1 0-0 2; Kleeh 2 1-1 7; Totals 17 14-19 50. WHEELING PARK (63) – A. Davis 11 10-11 35; M. Davis 6 5-6 19; Johnson 1 2-2 4; K. Davis 0 2-2 2; Williams 0 0-0 0; Lewis 1 1-2 3; Huffman 0 0-0 0; Whitmire 0 0-0 0; Totals 19 20-23 63.
Three-point goals: University 3 (Kleeh 2, Garbart). Wheeling Park 5 (A. Davis 3, M. Davis 2).