Patriots eliminate Big Reds

PARKERSBURG – Wednesday night just reaffirmed once again that when city arch-rivals Parkersburg South and Parkersburg High play, nothing can be taken for granted.

Despite being No. 5 ranked in the state, the host Patriots were pushed to the limit by underdog PHS before Doug Dennis dropped in a 12-foot shot from left of the lane with 1.2 seconds left to lift South to a spine-tingling 64-62 victory over the Big Reds in a Class AAA Region I, Section 1 semifinal at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center.

The now 19-4 Patriots, top seed in the sectional, will face third seed Wheeling Park, a 64-57 winner over second-seeded Brooke Wednesday night, on their home floor at 7 p.m. Friday for the sectional crown.

But before then, South will be sighing with relief for a while after its close call versus PHS (8-15) after the Patriots had pounded the Big Reds in both their regular-season meetings by an average score of 31 1/2 points.

Nevertheless after absorbing probably one of PHS’s best efforts of the season, it all came down to the last minute and a half for South with the score knotted at 62-all.

The Patriots held the ball from the 1:28 mark on until South head coach Mike Fallon called for a time out with 13.9 seconds remaining in regulation to set up a play for a potential game-winning shot.

Tyler Bolen threw the ball in at midcourt to Cody Monroe, who eventually drove down the lane and flipped the ball backside to Dennis, who calmly sank a 12-foot shot that nestled through the net as time expired for the victory against the Big Reds.

”When they kind of sat back on defense, that’s what we wanted,” said Fallon,” because we were going to hold for one shot. We ran a clear-out for Cody and told him if anyone helps, kick it to the shooter and he found Doug just great.

”Doug stepped up huge in the second half (with 18 of his 23 points). You gotta love that kid. I don’t think the ball even touched the net any time he shot.”

Dennis saw the last-second play this way: ”Cody drove, picked up a lot of the attention and kicked it out to me. I ball-faked, saw somebody coming, took two dribbles, pulled up and shot it.”

He admitted having ”a few” game-winning shots like the one Wednesday, ‘but not many.”

And Dennis kicked off the second half – with South trailing 33-30 after a 17-10 first quarter, but a 23-13 PHS second stanza – by drilling for two treys to give the Patriots a 36-35 lead. But the lead changed hands three more times before PHS notched the final four points in the period, the last two on a Braeden Cabbil-to-Ben Umpleby fast-break connection, for a 51-45 Big Red advantage after three quarters.

Dennis tied the game at 53 on a trey – one of his five 3-balls in the game – with 5:31 left before a Trevor Britton trey gave PHS a four-point lead, 62-58, with 2:53 left. But a basket by Logan Lawrentz followed by two Dennis free throws at the 2:11 mark squared the score at 62 and set the stage for Dennis’ last-second heroics to pull out the win for South.

After Dennis, the Patriots got nine points each from Wes Mitchem snd Logan Cox, and eight each from Tyler Bolen and Monroe, while for PHS, Britton led with 25 points, followed by Umpleby with 16, and six each from Andrew Bayer and Adrian Webster,

”It was a heartbreaker, that’s for sure,” said PHS head coach Jeff Mennillo, who explained that ”we were hoping to get a steal early after they started to hold the ball toward the end with all that time left.” But it didn’t happen and Dennis did in the Big Reds.

”It was a disappointing season for us,” continued Mennillo. ”But we really played our best basketball down the stretch. The kids gave it their all – and more – tonight, but we just came up a couple points short.”