PARKERSBURG-Opening games are tough on every coach.
But beginning your first season at a new school by playing host to the team picked by many to win the state Class AAA championship may be expecting too much.
That was the case Tuesday night at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center when first-year Parkersburg South head coach Mike Fallon made his debut as the Patriots' boss by taking on preseason No. 1 Wheeling Park.
Wheeling Park junior Errin Baynes connects on his free throw attempt during the Patriots’ 84-48 victory over Parkersburg South at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center Tuesday. (Photo by Jim Butta)
After a close first eight minutes of play, however, the Patriots from Wheeling went on a 24-3 run in the second quarter en route to an 84-48 victory.
"We can use a lot of excuses, but the reality of it is that our expectations are much higher than this and we will continue to work until we reach those expectations," explained Fallon.
Thanks to 11 points from senior Chris Neal, South nearly matched their northern rivals point for point in the opening frame before a layin by reserve Vondel Bell with 30 seconds left in the period gave the visitors the lead for good, 19-18.
A 10-0 run to open the second quarter, fueled by five points from reserve Michael Mauck and a defense that forced three straight turnovers vaulted the visitors to an 11-point, 29-18, advantage and they never looked back in giving head coach Michael Jebbia his first win in December.
"That second quarter was critical," said Jebbia, a former all-state performer at Park. "Their kids came out and played hard in that first quarter and hit some big shots.
"I just thought our defense was able to pick it up a little bit in the second and made them play at a pace they weren't comfortable in playing."
An analysis Fallon agreed with completely.
"We were able to get them to play our style in the first quarter and the result was we were in the game," Fallon said. "But, that second quarter they made us speed up and we were never able to get our offense back in sync the rest of the game."
Three straight points by Wes Mitchem pulled the hosts back to within eight, 29-21, with six minutes remaining until the intermission. But, that would also be the only points scored by the red, white and blue during the quarter as Wheeling Park's Bubby Goodwin and Boo Lathon combined for 12 points to lead the visiting Patriots on a 14-0 run to end the frame and give their team a 43-21 lead at the half.
Parkersburg South would get no closer than that the rest of the game.
Lathon led Wheeling Park, which plays host to University on Thursday, with 22 points while Goodwin chipped in 20 and added nine assists and a trio of steals. Senior Marqez O'Neal and Bell added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Parkersburg South was paced in the scoring column by Neal, who finished with 20 points, and Mitchem, who added 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
"There are a lot of positives that we can take from this game and that is what we will use to work on tomorrow in practice," said Fallon. "You can bet that this team will be ready for East Fairmont on Friday."