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Park out to defend big-school title

• Top-seeded Lady Patriots battle Morgantown for the third time this season

February 10, 2012
By RICH GIBSON - Times Leader Sports Writer ( , Times Leader

Morgantown and Wheeling Park have already played a pair of hotly-contested regular season games. So why should Saturday night's Wheeling Hospital/OVAC 5A Championship game be any different?

This much is certain: Both coaches expect more of the same with Meredith Dailer's top-seeded Lady Patriots going toe-to-toe against Adam Henkins' Lady Mohigans.

"They're a very deep and capable team which will give us several different looks. No question, Morgantown presents a challenge," Dailer described.

Henkins immediately returned the compliment. "Meredith does a great job and has a very well-rounded team. "We'll have to be at our best to beat them."

Park advanced to the big school title tilt after stopping rival John Marshall (63-55). Morgantown, meanwhile, as number three seed, remained relatively close to home in knocking off second-seeded University, 68-56.

The Lady Patriots arrive at Ohio University-Eastern's athletic complex with a 17-3 record. Dailer's talented club retains several key components from the 2011 club which upset top-seeded JM for last season's 4A title.

In 5-7 junior Emily Puskarich, Park has one of the Mountain State's premier players. "She does a little bit of everything well," Dailer described of the returning first team all-stater.

"Emily is much more than just a scorer. She distributes the ball, also rebounds well, and takes pride in playing defense."

Puskarich enters Saturday's game netting a shade under 19 points per start. She's also averaging 6.5 rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Junior Haley Robb is a 5-6 junior with adept shooting skills, particularly behind the three-point arc where she is a consistent threat. Robb contributes 14.3 points and has gone deep on a team-leading 42 occasions.

Park's solid-as-a-rock post presence is 6-0 senior Krista Crawshaw, a blue collar specialist whose impressive norms total 10.5 (points) and seven (rebounds). "Krista runs the floor well for a player her size. She especially works hard under the bucket," Dailer offered.

Sophomore guard Marissa Tucker has come of age to play a major role in the Lady Pats' success. The 5-3 backcourt ace is an 8.3 ppg. contributor with long range shooting ability and effective passing.

Another 10th grade impact cager is 5-7 Kelsi Johnson whose work has been steady. Johnson nets over six points per game and has been another key rebounder.

The sophomore class includes 5-8 forward Kambria O'Neal who brings above-average quickness to the table.

Off the bench, 5-4 freshman Chloe Robb has contributed important minutes.

"We feel we have a solid starting five on the floor," Dailer indicated. "This group has faced a formidable schedule and is used to playing in big games."

Serving as assistants to Dailer are Michele Parsons, Ryan Young and Mandi Swiger.

MORGANTOWN has rebounded nicely this season after enduring a 10-14 campaign a year ago.

"It's been a really great group of girls to work with," Henkins advised. "Like Wheeling Park, we feel we've gone up against a strong schedule which definitely helped us reach (the OVAC finals)."

The 16-3 Lady Mohigans have done so with a varied rotation. "We've played 13 much of the season which has proven beneficial," Henkins added.

Morgantown's leading scorer is 5-10 senior Briana Nuzum whose inside work has been exemplary.

"She's our go-to player in the post," Henkins confirmed of the Mohigan's honorable mention big school all-stater.

Nuzum works the boards with authority, bringing down nearly nine per evening.

Senior Rachel Michael (5.1 ppg.) is a smooth-operating swing player, equally adept as an inside-outside threat. "Rachel's easily one of our most versatile players who contributes in a number of ways," Henkins related.

The junior class is deep and paced by 5-9 Tiara Ireland. "Our most athletic kid and a very well-rounded player," Henkins praised. Ireland nets nine points an outing and also works the boards at both ends.

The Mohigans' backcourt has a diminutive dandy in 5-4 junior Leah Taylor. "She's a tough-as-nails player who really makes us go," Henkins observed. Taylor's impressive averages include: 10.2 (points); four (steals); three (assists).

Junior Emily Sabatino is another impact player who sparked the Lady Mohigans' semifinal win over University. "Emily's probably our best pure shooter," Henkins described the southpaw guard. Sabatino scored just under seven per game and also is a capable rebounder.

Expect junior guard Alicia Golden to make her presence felt in the backcourt. "Alicia's an up-and-down the floor player and a true point guard," her coach noted.

The Mohigans' mix includes 5-6 senior vet Olivia Naugle who scored nearly nine points per game. Also expect major minutes from 5-9 junior Haley Holloway.



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