Two of the area's premier teams, featuring three of the premier players, locked up Saturday afternoon in Shadyside.
Wheeling Park and Robert Morris signee Emily Puskarich crossed the river to take on the Lady Tigers, who feature Karli Bonar and Hayley Holenka.
Neither the game nor the players disappointed as Wheeling Park used a strong effort from the foul line in the fourth quarter to fend off the now-reeling Lady Tigers, 61-56 before a large turnout.
SHADYSIDE’S Kristen Fijalkowski pulls down a rebound over Wheeling Park’s Kelsey Johnson during Saturday’s game in Shadyside. Fijalowski had a double-double, but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Tigers fell, 61-56.
"We're in a tough stretch of games right now," said Shadyside head coach Tina Yates, who watched her team fall to 3-3 after dropping its second straight. "We have to continue to fight. We don't have any games where we can just show up and expect an easy win. We're going to get through this."
The Lady Patriots, who were without point guard Marissa Tucker because of a knee injury, are now 4-1 on the season and will visit University on Thursday.
"We had girls step it up and makes plays today," said Lady Patriots' head coach Dee Davis, who is in her first season of her second tour of duty. "I was happy with how the Robbs (Haley and Chloe) defended Bonar and Holenka today. They sacrificed their offense to play defense. We know defense wins big games like these."
It was actually Robb's offense that ignited the Lady Patriots to the lead entering the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 40 and 6.5 seconds showing on the clock, Robb went coast-to-coast and dropped in a floater to give Park the lead.
Shadyside tied the game at 44 on back-to-back buckets from sophomore Kenzie Fielding and Holenka before Puskarich, who torched the Lady Tigers for 30, got free on the interior for a soft lay in.
The hosts never got closer than one the remainder of the game. The Park lead swelled to as many as eight at 59-51.
Park, which led by as many as 11 in the first half, was able to close it out with a sharp 15-of-16 effort from the line in the fourth. Puskarich and Robb were good on their combined 14 tries.
"We'd make a run and then we'd let up a little bit and (Shadyside) came right back with a run," Davis said. "I was just hoping we'd have the last run. Our foul shooting definitely helped us tremendously. We usually shoot them pretty well."
Puskarich was as good as advertised. Allowing the game come to her, she displayed the entire aresenal. She shot the ball well from 3-point land, drove to the bucket, played on the interior and handled things well on the glass and blocked three shots.
"We lost to Morgantown and Emily tried to do too much, so we told her to just relax," Davis said. "We just want her to play her game. She's an all-around player."
Puskarich's scoring was complemented by Robb's 15. Kendra Johnson scored 10 points on the interior.
Battling against several different defensive looks, Bonar found her way to 16 points. Senior Kristen Fijalkowski had a double-double with 12 points and a like number of rebounds. Fielding was also impressive on the interior with a double-double of her own. She had 11 points and 11 boards.
"In the long run, these games are going to help us," Yates said. "We're not shooting the ball right now, so we have to make the most of the opportunities we get. We're going to keep digging and plugging away at this. We need everyone involved and once the other girls start doing it, it'll make life easier for Karli and Hayley."
Shadyside was guilty of 11 turnovers, which was one less than the winners.
Wheeling Park made it a clean sweep with a big victory in the reserve encounter.
WHEELING PARK (61) - Puskarich 9, 9-9 30; H. Robb 3, 7-8 15; C. Robb 1, 2-2 5; Kel. Johnson 0, 0-0 0; Ken. Johnson 5, 0-0 10; Kutrovec 0, 0-2 0; Slater 0, 0-0 0; O'Neal 0, 1-2 1; Totals: 18, 19-23 61. SHADYSIDE (56) - Holenka 3, 3-5 9; Bonar 4, 5-6 16; Fielding 4, 3-8 11; Andes 2, 1-2 6; Fijalkowski 5, 2-2 12; Jackson 0, 0-0 0; Benedetta 1, 0-0 2; Totals: 19, 14-23 56.
Three-Point Goals: WP - Puskarich (3), H. Robb (2), C. Robb. S - Bonar (3), Andes.