Charleston beckons Patriots and Big Reds boys basketball teams
South, PHS?each have one hurdle remaining
PARKERSBURG — A business-only attitude will permeate the Rod Oldham Athletic Center during a Region IV co-final matchup between visiting Hurricane and host Parkersburg South at 7 p.m. today.
Neither team is a stranger to the pressure or task at hand after meeting last season with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
A matchup won by Mike Fallon’s Patriots, 59-51, with a late rally.
“That is the biggest thing and something we talked about before the PHS game the other night,” said Fallon. “Our goal was to play that game at home and then the goal for this game was to get to play it at home.”
The goal was fulfilled after the blue and white with a touch of red squeezed out a closing seconds victory over rival Parkersburg High in the sectional championship game Friday night, 55-52.
It won’t be the first matchup of the campaign for the two teams either. South recovered for a 71-66 win at the The Little General Shootout back on Feb. 7 at West Virginia State University.
“We didn’t do a whole lot well,” said Fallon with a laugh. “We had a 15-point lead in the third quarter then kind of went crazy on offense and played a little flat too. Being able to find a way to win at the end was good and playing that game was a big plus because we know how they are going to defend us and what they will do offensively.”
Fallon expects a zone defense from the big and strong Redskins’ players to try and slow down the usually speedy South offensive attack.
“The good thing is we have played enough of those games this year we will be able to adjust to anything,” said Fallon.
Offensively, the sixth year head man knows the Redskins like to work the ball inside to Joe Muto and get on the blocks.
“We can’t foul them and bail them out on shots,” said Fallon. “They rely on living around the rim and getting the foul call. We gave up nine old-fashioned three-point plays to them the first time we played, which is more than we have given up the entire year. The biggest thing is not putting them on the line and giving them and ones.”
Something the Patriot leader feels his kids, who are 100 percent healthy heading into the game, are honed in on and out to make sure doesn’t cost them the game.
“The post-season focus is so much different than the regular season focus,” said Fallon. “It is kind of hard to describe, but the kids are dialed in and know what is at stake.”
Coaches like to say “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
This certainly is the scenario for the Parkersburg High boys basketball team as they stand one game away from their first state tournament appearance since 2015.
Jeff Mennillo’s group needs a win over reigning state champion Huntington and Bill Evans Award consideree Mikal Dawson to advance to Charleston.
Talk about deja vu.
The path was exactly the same one year ago and Huntington took the matchup, 82-80.
Just like last year, this won’t be the first matchup between the Mountain State Athletic Conference foes either.
But this time, the playing field stands more even then earlier this season when the Highlanders marched into PHS Memorial Fieldhouse on and walked out with a 74-47 win back on Dec. 15. Huntington’s superior experience showed as the Big Reds were still in the midst of replacing a good chunk of their collective knowledge from one year ago.
Scorers and creators in Kam White, Karson Snyder, Easton Martin and Tyler Lawrentz were gone from graduation and Parker Miller and Brenton Strange were the two most experienced kids back and healthy at the time.
Strange and Miller did what they could to keep the Big Reds in the game with 18 and 13 markers respectively, but Dawson’s game-high 25 points and a 24-9 Huntington advantage after the first quarter proved too much for PHS to overcome in the loss.
Only four other players scored in the loss and none of them recorded double-digits.
However, a lot has changed since the first meeting back on a cold, snowy night in December.
Menillo’s team gained valuable experience throughout the season playing against one of the toughest schedules in the state, which has led them to playing well down the stretch.
Pay no attention to their 13-10 record (losses are bound to happen when you play the best competition). PHS owns wins over the Nos. 5, 7 and 10 teams in the state, lost to Ohio Division I top-10 school Logan by a single point, and have given No. 2 Parkersburg South all they have wanted and more in three meetings this season.
Defender Seth Dailey is healthy and along with Kionte Peacock give the Big Reds four scorers capable of creating their own shots and recording double-digit outings.
Not to mention, Mennillo has his kids believing in defense and only one team has come within single-digits of equaling Huntington’s mark in points scored against the Big Reds is George Washington with 68 back on Feb. 12.
All in attendance should expect a different outcome the second time around tonight.