No. 1 Patriots survive Mohigans’ challenge
Battle to the wire with a playoff-game atmosphere at MHS
For The Dominion Post
In one sense, Saturday night’s boys’ basketball game between Wheeling Park and Morgantown meant very little.
The Region 1, Section 1 semifinal seeding for Wednesday’s games is already established, with MHS set to host John Marshall while Wheeling Park plays at home against Monday’s University-Brooke play-in game winner.
No conference championship was on the line. No automatic berth in the state tournament was at stake.
But any time two of the best teams in the state tip it off — and it’s clear that both the Patriots, at the top of The Associated Press Class AAA poll, and the Metro News Power Index No. 1-ranked Mohigans, certainly qualify — the game can become far more than a meaningless precursor to the postseason, where these two teams very well could face each other more than once.
In a battle that had all the intensity and emotion of an elimination game, it was the visitors who measured up a just a sliver taller, as Wheeling Park bested Morgantown, 54-52.
The near-capacity crowd was treated to an athletic, hard-nosed, high-quality brand of basketball in a first half played at a blistering pace. MHS (19-3) shared the ball effectively on offense, getting balanced scoring throughout its lineup, while Park featured dynamic senior guard Kelvin “Bubby” Goodwin, who scored a dozen first-half points, and little else. Nathan Adrian’s baseline jumper at the end of the half gave the Mohigans their third eight-point lead at 33-25.
Wheeling Park (20-2) stepped up the defensive intensity in the second half, and although Morgantown weathered the storm early, increasing the lead to 39-30, with 3:33 left in the third, the game changed when the Patriots’ quick hands forced three quick turnovers, all converted into fast-break baskets.
By the time the Park run was finally broken at 12 points early in the final quarter, the Mohigans trailed, 48-41, with five minutes to go.
But Morgantown wasn’t done. The Mohigans battled back with a 9-2 run to tie at 50 with three minutes left.
Mohigans forward Adrian’s rainbow jumper from the wing followed Park’s go-ahead lay-in by Marqez O’Neal to tie the score at 52 with 1:28 to go, then Demetrius “Boo” Lathon converted a layup on an offensive rebound to put the Patriots up by two with just 1:17 left.
MHS then turned it over again, the 15th of the game, which forced the Mohigans to foul to stop the clock. Park missed a one-and-one with 37 ticks on the clock, but two MHS shots wouldn’t fall. Another missed foul shot gave Morgantown one last chance with 2.2 seconds left, but a long heave from threequarter court fell short.
Elated Patriots coach Michael Jebbia wasn’t surprised at all with the quality of the game.
“We’re two good programs, and we expected the game to be played hard, and at a high level,” he said. “They came out playing hard, and we needed to match their effort, and I thought we did that defensively in the second half. I thought O’Neal did a good job slowing down [high-scoring forward MHS Taylor] Price, and Vondel Bell did a nice job of harassing their point guard. I especially liked the way we came back from adversity on the road.”
Goodwin, who finished with a game-high 20 points, knew what his coach expected of his team in the second half.
“We’ve had slow starts on the road all year long,” he admitted, “so we knew we’d have to get in their face on defense in the second half, and play just as hard as they did at the beginning. That’s what turned the game around for us. And if we see them again — and I think we will — we’ll need to be ready to come out and play right from the start, or we’ll have to play ourselves out of trouble again.”
MHS coach Tom Yester identified a few key areas where his team needs to improve.
“We had about five too many turnovers, and only four offensive rebounds, which just won’t cut it,” he said. “And we stress that turnovers can’t lead to points, but that’s what we gave them, and it really seemed to energize them on their one run. We could use one more player stepping up with a few points as well.
“But I liked the way regained our composure, battled, and gave ourselves a chance at the end. It’s pretty clear that these two teams are pretty close, and if both teams take care of business, we could get another shot at them. Maybe two. I think our team would enjoy that challenge.”
And anybody who loves great high school basketball would enjoy watching.
In the JV game, MHS (19-1) completed a nearly flawless season by defeating Wheeling Park, 54-46. Dean Marshall paced a balanced Mohigans offense with 13 points. Wheeling Park freshman guard Luke Saseen led all scorers with 17 points, while Quashad Pugh scored 15 for the Patriots (16-4).
WHEELING PARK (20-2) Popicg 2 0-0 6, Baynes 1 0-0 2, Bell 4 0-1 8, Kelvin Goodwin 7 3-5 20, O’Neal 5 1-2 11, Demetrius Lathon 3 1-3 7. Totals 22 5-11 54. MORGANTOWN (19-3) Berryhill 0 1-2 1, Watson 2 0-0 4, Keffer 4 4-4 12, Drake 3 1-1 6, Adrian 6 0-1 13, Price 6 4-5 16. Totals 21 9-13 52. Wheeling Park 12 13 18 11 — 54 Morgantown 18 15 6 13 — 52 3-point goals: Wheeling Park 5 (Goodwin 3, Popicg 2), Morgantown 1 (Nathan).

Jason DeProspero/The Dominion Post
Morgantown’s Michael Keffer fires up a shot in the paint as Wheeling Park’s Marqez O’Neal defends, in Saturday’s game.