Buckeye Bummer

Too big, too strong, too physical and too talented.

West Virginia had a distinct advantage in all of those facets of Sunday’s 35th annual Samuel A. Mumley OVAC All-Star Classic held on the campus of Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville.

The Mountaineers mixed and matched their personnel well en route to a convincing 83-70 victory against their Ohio rivals, completing the sweep on the afternoon.

“This was a wonderful experience,” said West Virginia and Linsly head coach James Wallace. “When you work with high quality young men like we did, it’s a great time. These kids represented themselves, their schools and the OVAC extremely well. Plus, any time you can get a victory, it makes even more special.”

The West Virginia squad wasted no time asserting itself. Well, actually it did because it was when Wallace went to his second unit, that included Wheeling Park’s duo of Boo Lathon and Vondel Bell, when the Mountaineers made their run to gain separation.

Lathon, who shined the brightest of all the stars, drained in three triples in the first half in which he scored 14 of his game-high 25 points.

He also had two thunderous dunks, which led to a few oohs and aahs from the large crowd on hand.

“With it being the last time that I was going to put on a Wheeling Park jersey, I just wanted to come out and do a little something,” Lathon, who is planning on playing football and basketball at West Liberty, said. “I was hot and feeling it (in the first half), so just I kept shooting. My dunks were monsterous. Our coaches told us anytime we had a chance to throw one down to go for it, and I did.”

The Mountain State headed to the intermission, at which time Union Local sharpshooter Kurtis Ogilbee claimed the three-point contest, with a 49-30 lead.

The Buckeye State made a run in the second half behind the sweet shooting of Fort Frye’s Zach Eddy, who hit three of his four treys in the second 20 minutes. Ohio got as close as nine at 60-51, but the Mountaineers stopped the bleeding with back-to-back buckets from Bishop Donahue’s D.T. Meeker and then another tally from Lathon.

“Our plan was to win the game,” Ohio and Steubenville head coach Mike Haney said. “You talk about all-star games, you think about kids messing around and taking crazy shots, but our kids’ effort was great. We played hard, got after it defensively. I thought we played well together. Lathon was killing the 3s early, but we battled back.”

The Weir High duo of Harley Mills and Michael Drizake each went for 10 points in the game. Mills’ final two came off a brilliantly thrown lob from Linsly’s Akil Blount. Bell finished with eight points.

Ohio, meanwhile, was paced by Eddy’s 12 points. Cambridge’s Riley Rodgers added 10 points. Big Red’s William Houst added eight points.

WEST VIRGINIA (83) – Hughes 1, 1-1 3; Breen 1, 0-0 3; Battista 1, 0-0 2; Bell 4, 0-0 8; Wade 1, 0-0 2; Drizake 4, 0-0 10; Meeker 3, 0-0 6; Blount 2, 1-1 5; Frankovitch 3, 2-4 8; Lathon 10, 1-2 25; Keller 0, 1-2 1; Mills 4, 0-0 10; Ueltschy 0, 0-2 0; Totals: 34, 6-12 83. OHIO (70) – Smelley 2, 2-4 6; Spence 0, 0-0 0; Pieniazek 1, 0-2 2; Fitzpatrick 2, 0-0 4; Feller 1, 0-0 2; Thompson 2, 1-1 5; Dauch 1, 0-2 2; Bowers 2, 1-2 6; Ogilbee 2, 0-0 5; Smyth 1, 2-3 4; Thompkins 2, 0-0 4; Eddy 4, 0-0 12; Houst 4, 0-0 8; Rogers 3, 4-5 10; Larrick 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 27, 10-19 70.

Three-Point Goals: WV – Breen, Drizake (2), Lathon (4), Mills (2). O – Bowers, Ogilbee, Eddy (4).

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com

Buckeye Bummer

“Thanks for the memories.”

That from Edison’s Tony Kovalesky who’s saying goodbye to a sport he’s been devoted to some 34 years.

“I could not think of a better way to go out than coaching in a game of this caliber,” Kovalesky remarked following Sunday’s 35th annual Samuel Mumley OVAC Classic.

Though Ohio’s all-stars couldn’t quite pull out a win, Kovalesky expressed gratitude to conference officials.

“This event is such a great showcase for the outstanding players from both states,” he said. “I guess someone has to lose the game, but the entire experience is so worthwhile.”

Kovalesky’s Lady Buckeyes went down fighting against their West Virginia counterparts before falling short, 61-57 at Ohio University-Eastern’s athletic complex west of St. Clairsville.

While Kovalesky is retiring after spending the past four seasons as head girls’ coach at Edison, he’s invested over three decades both coaching and teaching in the school district.

By contrast, West Virginia’s Dave Price just concluded his first season guiding the girls’ hoop program at Clay Battelle High.

“It’s nearly a two and one-half hour drive, but it was worth every minute,” Price smiled following Sunday’s outcome.

“You get a chance to read about many of these players during the regular season. To have an opportunity to coach such a special group of young ladies was just a wonderful experience. The OVAC definitely knows how it’s done.”

West Virginia mounted a 32-27 halftime lead and eventually extended the spread to nine before a Ohio comeback led by Edison’s Kayla Prokopakis.

One of the Lady Cats’ star sister combine, Kayla knocked down 14 of her game-leading 21 points after halftime, including a conventional three-point play which earned Ohio a 49-49 deadlock.

But West Virginia guard Cassie Sorge of Wheeling Central answered, draining a top-of-the-key three, handing the Mountaineers a lead they would not relinquish.

In possession and down 60-57 in the final ticks, a Buckeye turnover led to a game-sealing free throw by John Marshall’s Alexis Montes for the final reading.

“I have to thank my two assistants Scott Wiley (Oak Glen) and Don Ogden (Weirton Madonna) for helping show me the way,” Price added.

West Virginia received a team-leading 12 tallies from Oak Glen’s ace guard Payden Eckleberry. University High’s Samantha Gaspar contributed 10 points and six boards.

Weirton Madonna’s Isabella Anile scored eight markers with JM’s Jenna Stephens and Wheeling Park’s Krista Crawshaw adding seven and six, respectively.

Prokopakis was the lone Ohio all-star in double digits. Beaver Local’s Tennelle Hoppel hooped eight points. Shenandoah’s Sami Schott scored six.

Fort Frye’s Sami Hanson brought down eight rebounds and Prokopakis snared seven. Serving as assistants to Kovalesky was Harrison Central’s Nick Yourkovich and Buckeye Trail’s Nicole Stevens.

WEST VIRGINIA (61) – Lyons 0, 0-0 0; Mullett 0, 0-0 0; Tedrow 0, 0-0 0; Siburt 0, 0-0 0; Robbins 1, 0-0 2; McAtee 1, 0-0 3; Montes 1, 2-4 4; Nuzum 2, 0-4 4; Sorge 2, 0-0 5; Crawshaw 2, 2-2 6; Stephens 3, 0-0 7; Anile 3, 2-2 8; Gaspar 4, 2-2 10; Eckleberry 4, 2-4 12. Totals – 23, 10-18. OHIO (57) – Bilyeu 0, 0-0 0; Fry 0, 0-0 0; Shutz 0, 1-2 1; Meintel 1, 0-0 2; Tipton 1, 0-0 2; Sichina 1, 0-0 2; Young 1, 0-0 2; Hanson 1, 1-2 3; Davis 1, 1-2 3; Prokopakis, Kris. 1, 0-2 3; Hunkler 0, 4-4 4; Schott 2, 2-2 6; Hoppel 3, 1-2 8; Prokopakis, Kay. 8, 3-6 21. Totals – 20, 13-22.

Three-point goals. West Virginia – Eickleberry, 2; McAtee, Sorge, Stephens. Ohio – Kay. Prokopakis, 2; Hoppel, Kris. Prokopakis.

Gibson may be reached at rgibson@timesleaderonline.com