UHS drop road match to Wheeling Park, 78-51

WHEELING – Late in the first quarter, with the clock ticking to zero, Wheeling Park’s Alexis Bordas drove down the lane and kicked the ball out to Natalie Daugherty on the perimeter, who made an extra pass to an open Lala Woods for a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The basket swung the lead to Wheeling Park, 15-13, after a back-and-forth first quarter against the visiting University Hawks. It was also a change of pace for a Patriots team that hadn’t moved the ball up to their standards in the period.

The end-of-quarter sequence also signaled a swing in momentum for the entire game, as Wheeling Park never trailed again, outscoring University 63-38 in the next three quarters to secure a 78-51 win on their home court.

“We only had two assists in the first quarter,” Wheeling Park head coach Ryan Young said. “The last play of the quarter was a real nice ball-moving play where we hit a 3. We just talked to the kids in the huddle, that’s how we’ve got to play the next three quarters.

“We didn’t pass the ball too well in the first quarter. When we pass the ball and have 20-something assists like we did, and we win the rebounding battle, we’re a pretty tough team.”

Wheeling Park was led by senior guard Natalie Daugherty, who scored 25 points with seven assists and five rebounds.

After missing her first three shots of the game, all 3-pointers in the first quarter, Daugherty made her next nine baskets and scored 15 points in a runaway fourth quarter.

“Natalie Daugherty started off struggling shooting the basketball, and she shook that off pretty quick and played an unbelievable game,” Young said. “She had 25 points and seven assists, leading us in both categories. I think she recognized that her outside shot wasn’t there so she started to drive the ball to the rim a lot more and was finishing at the rim. As the game moved on, then her outside shot started to fall.

“She played a real smart game when you think about struggling like that as a player and how to overcome that, she did a real good job.”

University was led in scoring Julia Maisel, who scored 17 points for the Hawks. Ella Simpson was the next-highest scorer with nine.

Wheeling Park edged University in assists 20-7 and outrebounded the Hawks 31-23. The Patriots were especially proficient on the defensive glass in the first half, where University was afforded only one offensive rebound, limiting their opportunities to fight back into the game.

“We did a real nice job rebounding the ball in the first half,” Young said.

Maisel did try and give University a spark right before half, stripping the ball at the top of the key while Park was waiting for a last shot and taking the rock to the other end for a tough lay-in with a few seconds to play.

Park led 38-21 at the break.

Early on, the two teams couldn’t get an inch of separation from each other, with seven lead changes in the first quarter. Wheeling Park started with a very aggressive full-court press, and the Hawks did well in resisting the pressure and often got good looks in short order as a result. All five University starters scored in the opening frame.

Park did force six turnovers in the opening quarter, but many of them came in the halfcourt by applying tight ball pressure on the perimeter.

Over the next three quarters, the Patriots focused more on their half-court defense, to great success.

“I think they did a pretty good job of breaking our pressure early in the game,” Young said of University. “We continued to pressure them, we just dialed it down a little bit. Forced them to make the mistake instead of going into early traps, I think that prevented them from getting easy buckets.”

After Daugherty’s 25, Alexis Bordas came through with 16 points, two blocks and seven rebounds, Lala Woods scored 10 points with four assists, four rebounds and four steals, Jillian Huffman scored 10 with six rebounds, Seneca Heller scored nine with five assists, and Merritt Delk scored six with six rebounds and three steals.

Riley Braham chipped in seven, Ashlyn Weaver scored six and both Brianna Fox and Hannah Stemple scored five for University.

University (2-3) next faces Heathwood Hall Episcopal at home on December 20th, while Wheeling Park (4-1) will face Spring Valley at home on December 16th.

By NICK HENTHORN/The Intelligencer

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