Park girls topple JM

WHEELING — Ryan Young ingrained a culture of tenacity and toughness at Wheeling Park last season. So much so, the Patriots pocketed their first OVAC championship since 2012 while also punching a ticket to the state tournament.

Young’s Patriots debuted Friday night against rival John Marshall at “The Palace on the Hill,” and while a few new faces dot the roster, that same tenacity and toughness pervades the Park mindset.

The Patriots relied on their stifling fullcourt pressure and rock-solid halfcourt defense en route to a 56-45 triumph over the game-but-outmanned Monarchs.

Park’s pressure forced John Marshall into 23 turnovers while also limiting the visitors to just 12 field goals on the night.

“I expected we would be a little sloppy with it being our first game, and we were. There was no flow to the game due to all the fouls being called,” Young said. “I was happy with our defense. John Marshall only had three field goals at halftime.”

“We have a lot of things to clean up. We played a lot of the game without Kylie (McKennen) on the floor due to foul problems. Brock (Melko) had his team well prepared for the game,” he continued. “The good thing is a lot of kids got to play tonight and got a taste of it. We will need to step things up for Morgantown on Tuesday.”

McKennen — Park’s pitbull of a point guard — made her presence felt in limited time. The all-stater had seven points to go with a handful of steals while proving the linchpin of the Park defense, playing with boundless energy.

Park placed nine players in the scoring column.

Freshman dandy Bella Abernathy led the way with 14 points. The athletic 5-10 post also grabbed 12 boards.

Sophomore guard Shanley Woods came off the bench to net eight points while hard-working senior Morgan Glass and promising frosh guard Asia Roby evenly divided 14 markers.

It was the second acid test for the Monarchs, dropping a road decision to powerful Parkersburg South Tuesday. John Marshall hosts Brooke Wednesday.

“Wheeling Park is loaded. They are what we thought they were,” Melko said. “The last time we were up here they beat us by 60. Tonight, we had to get out of our press because of foul problems.

“We are going to hang our hat on the defensive end. I thought in the second quarter we showed what kind of defense we are capable of playing,” he added. “We got a lot of young kids but they are battlers. They never quit. We just need to get a win under our belt.”

Standout Shay Straughn was sharp in defeat. The junior guard popped in a game-high 17 points.

Sophomore Abby Blake was her top support with nine points.

Park committed 14 turnovers.

The Patriots rolled to a 25-11 lead after one quarter and took a 30-20 lead into intermission. The hosts stretched their advantage to 46-30 after three quarters.

At halftime, the 1998 Wheeling Park state champion team coached by Dee Davis was honored.