Wheeling Park boys' basketball coach Michael Jebbia had a brief chat with 6-foot-3 junior post player Marqez O'Neal prior to Saturday night's game against Morgantown at the Patriots' Palace on the Hill.
''I told him that we need you to put a full game together on the both ends of the court,'' Jebbia said.
Apparently O'Neal got the message, especially in the third quarter when the Patriots were on the losing side of the scoreboard.
With Park trailing the Mohigans, 32-24, after being outscored 20-10 in the second quarter, O'Neal decided it was time to take over the game.
He scored the Patriots' first 10 points of the second half, 17 of their 25 in the third quarter and went on to finish with 29 overall as Park finally pulled away for a 67-49 victory.
The victory was the fifth in a row for the Patriots and their second flirtation with a possible defeat in as many nights. After leading Wheeling Central by 56-35 with 6 minutes remaining in the Cancer Research Classic at Wheeling Jesuit University on Friday evening, Park allowed frittered away every point of that margin before eventually winning in overtime 67-60.
Last night, Jebbia had a sterner, more to the point message for his entire time during the halftime break.
''We talked about shot selection and rebounding. They (Morgantown) were beating us to the loose balls and getting the rebounds. On offense we were taking quick shots, trying to lean in against guys 6-5, 6-7 and not having much success,'' Jebbia said.
Looking for a way to give his team a spark, Jebbia had the Patriots jump into their press at the outset of the third quarter and he saw an immediate rise in their energy level. The stepped-up pressure also prevented the Mohigans from freely pounding the ball in the paint to 6-7 Sam Runner and 6-5 Nathan Colombo, who had combined for 22 points in the first half.
O'Neal also helped out on the defensive end as well as Runner was limited to only three points, all coming at the foul line, in the second half.
''Runner's very good inside. He is going to be a college player somewhere next year,'' Jebbia said.
On Park's opening possession of the third quarter, O'Neal took a quick pass from Goodwin and laid the ball off the glass, cutting the deficit to 32-26. Taylor Price countered that move with a 15-foot jumper while stationed to the right of the free-throw circle in front of the Mohigans bench.
The Price basket was one of the few successful outside shots all night for Morgantown and it would be the Mohigans' last points for nearly 5 minutes. Park then went on a torrid 15-0 run to open a 41-34 lead.
O'Neal got his second basket of the third quarter at the end of a fast break and following a Mohigans turnover, he got the ball along the baseline and connected on a reverse layup. Two more Morgantown turnovers and four more points from O'Neal tied the game at 34-34.
Michael Griffin, fouled while on a drive, cashed both free throws, putting the Patriots ahead to stay at 36-34. Richard Hall then followed with a 3-pointer, extending the lead to five points.
After O'Neal made it 41-36, with another one-hander off the glass, Colombo finally broke the ice for the Mohigans as he scored on a nice move down the middle but missed the chance for a three-point play when his free throw bounced off the rim.
A few minutes later, senior backup guard Nathan Dolan, who has yet to miss a 3-point attempt this season, nailed one from the right wing, extending the Patriots advantage to 49-41 entering the fourth quarter.
Morgantown coach Tom Yester was disappointed with his team's inability to handle Park's pressure in the third quarter.
''We only practiced against the press all week,'' Yester said. ''Unfortunately, we didn't have Wheeling Park to practice against. Our guys just didn't do what they were supposed to do. There's no other simple way to explain what happened.''
The fourth quarter saw O'Neal add six points to his total, while guard Bubby Goodwin contributed seven points, five of which came from the foul line. Morgantown got no closer than eight points before Park pulled away during the closing minutes.
Although Goodwin struggled from the floor, hitting just 4 of 15 shots, three of his buckets were 3-pointers as he ended up with 16 points. Once again Goodwin's sparkling floor game was huge for the Patriots, as he matched his season average of eight assists.
''He creates things for other people and lets the game come to him instead of trying to force a lot of shots'' Jebbia said.
Morgantown outrebounded Park 40-26, led by Runner's 11 rebounds to go with 16 points. Colombo grabbed 10 missed shots and had 14 points. Hall paced the Patriots underneath the glass by pulling down a dozen missed shots.
Yester, whose Mohigans slipped to a 1-2 record with the other setback coming at the hands of undefeated Preston, ranks Park as a top-5 club in the state's Class AAA ranks at this early stage of the season.
''They've got a nice team, no doubt about it,'' Yester said. ''They have quickness and a couple of good shooters. If we are going to become a good basketball team we need our players on the perimeter to starting hitting some shots.
''We have some kids that can shoot in practice, but it sure hasn't happened so far during the games.''

Wheeling Park’s Marqez O’Neal (32) goes up for a shot as Morgantown’s Sam Runner goes for the block.