Parkersburg South speeds up Wheeling Park, advances to state semis | News, Sports, Jobs

Parkersburg South’s Caleb Schaffer, right, attacks the basket as Wheeling Park’s D’arrae Goodwin defends during Thursday’s Class AAAA state quarterfinals in Charleston. South won, 72-46. (Photo by Kerry Patrick)

CHARLESTON — Facing Parkersburg South is like a vacuum which sucks you in and forces teams to play their up-tempo, chaotic brand of basketball.

Wheeling Park was South’s latest victim as the No. 3 seed in this week’s Class AAAA state tournament shrugged off a sluggish start and defeated the field’s No. 6 seed, 72-46, Friday morning at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

South (21-3) advances to today’s semifinal matchup against No. 2 seed Jefferson scheduled for a 9 pm tip.

“South is very capable playing Saturday (in the championship game),” said Wheeling Park coach Michael Jebbia, whose ballclub recovered from an 0-3 record to open the season and finished 16-10. “They press you to try and get the game sped up, and get you going up and down the court. We wanted to run offense and thought if we could keep the score in the 60s it would have been more to our liking.

“We just couldn’t create enough offense there in the first half. They are pesky, get after you and they are athletic. The footwork on (South’s) Cyrus Traugh and Ashton Mooney, they are all-state caliber players.”

Wheeling Park led as late as the seven-minute mark of the second quarter. Trailing 13-12, South settled into its game and outscored Wheeling Park 19-2 as the half ended with South leading 31-15.

Behind a putback from Cole Wilkinson and a Caleb Francis 3-pointer, Wheeling Park worked into the deficit and trailed 31-20 before South produced one of its patented runs. South answered Wheeling Park’s push and used a 5-0 run to create space at 36-20 then created a comfort zone with a 7-0 spurt to end the third quarter leading 51-31.

Wheeling Park fell behind by as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter.

“We struggled early – I think the environment kind of swallowed us up for three or four minutes, but once we settled in I thought we played really well,” South coach Mike Fallon said.

“At halftime, we talked about our press – we weren’t getting steals out of it, but I think it created havoc. And that’s an uncomfortable feeling.

“Even when they settled into their half court, we were able to get up and put pressure on the perimeter.”

Sophomore Jackson Smith knocked down a pair of 3-pointers during the second-quarter onslaught and finished the game with five total as part of his 17 points.

Smith seemed numb to the experience of playing in the Charleston venue. As if he was back home inside the friendly confines of Rod Oldham Athletic Center.

“I’m just a shooter no matter what – I don’t care where I play,” said Smith, who made 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. “I am just going to keep shooting until it goes in.”

Mooney shared game-high scoring honors with Smith and added five assists, five rebounds and three steals to his stat line.

“We started slow, but we knew once we got on the floor we would get rid of all of the nerves,” Mooney said. “As long as we turned up the speed and did what we do, we would get it going.”

Not one soul on the South roster had ever played a game in the state tournament, so getting off on the right foot was crucial. Traugh exposed Wheeling Park in the second half for nine of his 14 points.

“I was a little bit nervous at the beginning just because I’ve not played anywhere like this,” Traugh said. “As for the next game, we don’t have to worry about other teams. We just have to be concerned about us and keep on doing what we do.”

The workhorse, and perhaps most underappreciated South member, starter Caleb Schaffer, pulled down 14 rebounds to go with his four points.

“Caleb Schaffer is an animal,” Fallon said. “He does all the things that no one sees except us as a coaching staff. He is a major part of what we do. He loves his role, he loves what he does.”

Wheeling Park will be a tough out next year since all but one of its top six scorers return. A total of nine letterwinners figure to be back on the roster, including Aiden Davis, the second-leading scorer on the team as a freshman who scored a team-high 16 points for Wheeling Park.

Wheeling Park leading scorer Brett Phillips contributed eight points and nine rebounds.

“It hurts now, no doubt about it,” Jebbia said. “This year will be a stepping stone for next season and a reference point.”

Contact Kerry Patrick at kpatrick@newsandsentinel.com

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