CHARLESTON, W.Va. – No. 4 Wheeling Park erased a 10-point halftime deficit and dominated the second half on Thursday for a 59-49 girls basketball state tournament quarterfinal win over No. 5 George Washington.
“We didn’t play our basketball at first,” said Wheeling Park coach Ryan Young. “We battled back in the second half. Our defense is something that we take pride in and at some point in the third quarter, that kicked in and it started to create offense for us. We got the job done.”
Wheeling Park went just 2 of 12 from the floor in the first quarter and 4 of 13 in the second quarter, trailing 29-19 at the break.
But a surge on the glass and 60 percent effort from the floor late in the third quarter gave Wheeling Park all of the momentum in the second half.
The largest deficit for Wheeling Park came at the 5:33 mark of the third quarter as the Patriots had fallen behind by 15.
“I have confidence in these kids and I know what kind of heart they have,” Young said. “My only worry was that you’re in a deep hole against a team that can score. But once we cut it in half and picked up our defensive pressure, we had closed the gap all the way by the fourth quarter – I knew (George Washington) was in trouble.”
Senior guard Kylie McKennen led Wheeling Park with 20 points, while Bella Abernathy was a key difference-maker inside with 19 points, five rebounds and three blocks.
“I just stepped up and when I got it at the high-post, I knew I could make my moves and score,” Abernathy said. “I just kept doing it to help the team.”
Abernathy, who averages eight points per game on the season as a whole, is just a freshman.
“I’m a pretty happy guy for the next few years,” Young said. “With her and Asia (Roby) being freshmen, we have a bright future with this freshman class and our sophomore class.”
But it was another senior, Laurel Robb, doing work on the boards Thursday, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with four points.
Wheeling Park overall won the battle on the glass 43-31.
“I don’t care about the points, I don’t care about the assists, I don’t care about getting my name in the newspaper or anything,” Robb said. “I just care about winning and that’s what we’re here to do. That was my mentality in the second half – to come out and win this thing.”
Wheeling Park moves on to face No. 1 Buckhannon-Upshur in the semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m.
The Patriots lost to Buckhannon back in December 71-42.
“We have to take care of the basketball and continue to pound the glass against them,” Young said. “They’re not a super big team, however, they are an outstanding defensive team. They play so well collectively and mix up their zone presses.”