WELLSBURG - Make no mistake about it, Wheeling Park Head Coach Michael Jebbia did everything in his power to help direct his Patriots to victories over West Virginia big-school powers George Washington and South Charleston last week.
However, while the end result of both games was heart-breaking losses, Jebbia did not hesitate Wednesday night to point to those games as big factors in Park's Region One, Section One semifinal victory over a stunned Brooke High squad.
Sophomore Ryan Reinbeau dropped in a game-high 25 points as the Patriots shot 68 percent from the field in the first half and 56 percent for the game, and when the shots did stop falling a little, the red, white and blue did it on the boards to the tune of a 35-16 margin as Wheeling Park advanced with an impressive 60-47 victory over the Bruins at Brooke High School.
"We came out and attacked the basket very early on, and then we just quit doing it," Brooke head coach Dave Reitter admitted. "But give Park credit they were up in our faces and pushing us away and we just never got back into the flow.
"I really feel bad for our seniors that they won't have the opportunity to play again, but I wish Coach Jebbia, his staff and his team the best of luck the rest of the way."
The victory moves Jebbia's club to 11-12 and sends it into Friday night's Section One final at 7 p.m. at Parkersburg South. The Patriots already own a pair of wins over the Park on the campaign. The victory also guarantees the local Patriots a berth in next week's Regional tournament.
"I know we lost twice, but last week really prepared us for this," Jebbia smiled. "The bottom line is that we play people, and that is not a knock on other school's schedules, it is a choice by us to get ready for the games that really matter and it paid off for us in this one."
With a pair of charity tosses from freshman standout Thomas Cole and a deuce from Eric Johnson, the Bruins (15-8) actually started the game with a 4-0 lead, unfortunately for the hosts, after Wheeling Park ripped off the next seven points, five of them by Reinbeau, they never managed to get the lead back.
Reinbeau scored nine in the opening period as the Patriots led 16-12 and added a pair of bonus bombs in the second as Park led by as many as eight before settling for a 31-26 reading at the break. In all, the Patriots knocked down 13 of their initial 19 shots for a sizzling 68 percent showing in the opening two frames.
Things got worse for Reitter's squad as soon as the whistle blew to start the third chapter. Four Park players landed field goals for an 8-0 burst that made it 39-26 with 4:15 to go in the third. The Bruins managed to get it back to 42-33 with eight minutes to play, and even pulled to within six at 46-40 with 3:50 showing, but the Patriots were 6 of 6 from the stripe down the stretch to ice the contest.
While the 68 percent shooting performance was the story of the first half for the winners, a 26-7 rebounding edge over the final two quarters proved too much to overcome for Brooke.
"At the half I wrote the number eight on the board because that was how many offensive rebounds Brooke had in the first half," Jebbia said. "Getting to the glass was something we emphasized in the second half and the kids did a great job.
"I really would like to commend Brooke on a great season. If you asked me I would tell you that they were better than us on Jan. 15 the first time we played. I think we were even on Jan. 30 (Park's home win against the Bruins) and I really felt that if we came here to compete we could beat them (Wednesday), and we did."
While Reinbeau exploded for 25, Snedeker added 12 and Luke Saseen finished with eight. Cole led Brooke with 16 while Johnson shook off a poor shooting night to finish with 12 tallies. Park did turn the ball over 18 times, including eight in the fourth quarter, while the Bruins had just seven miscues.
Wheeling Park 60, Brooke 47
Wheeling Park 16 15 11 18 - 60
Brooke 12 14 7 14 - 47
WHEELING PARK: Reinbeau 11-16 0-0 25; Phillips 2-2 0-0 4; Saseen 3-5 2-2 8; Snedeker 4-10 4-8 12; Kowalo 0-1 2-2 2; Smith 1-3 0-0 3; Moffett 2-5 0-0 4; Bledsoe 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 24-43 8-12 60. 3-pointers: Reinbeau 3, Smith.
BROOKE: Cole 6-9 4-5 16; Schambach 0-3 0-0 0; Johnson 4-17 1-2 12; Schwertfeger 1-12 0-0 2; Gambellin 2-3 0-0 4; Wallace 2-4 0-2 4; Heaton 3-5 0-0 6; Dameron 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 19-54 5-9 47. 3-pointers: Johnson 3, Dameron.