Tip-in Drill: Basket in final seconds lifts Wheeling Park over Warren

VINCENT – Phil Bledsoe’s rebound and put-back basket with less than a second to play lifted the visiting Wheeling Park Patriots to a 67-65 come-from-behind victory over the Warren Warriors Monday night in a non-conference game at a jam-packed Warren High School.

With the score tied at 65-65 and thirty seconds to play, Patriot guard Elijah Bell allowed the clock to wind down to just six seconds before driving towards the basket and firing up an off-balance 10-footer.

Bledsoe was in the right place at the right time as the six-foot-five sophomore established position and tipped the ball into the basket with just eight tenths of a second remaining on the clock.

“Phil Bledsoe is one of the best rebounders we have ever had at our school and he is just a sophomore,” said Wheeling Park head coach Mike Jebbia. “He crashed the boards and was able to come up with the big tip-in.”

The Warriors dominated the first half of the game as Evan French poured in 17 points in the opening 16 minutes to help stake the big blue to a 38-30 lead at intermission.

Warren actually led by a dozen late in the first half but a three-point play by Luke Saseen in the final minute of the half trimmed the lead to eight.

Michael Hall spent much of the opening half on the bench with three fouls but the Warrior junior opened the second with a bucket on a nifty assist from French to push the Warren lead back to double digits.

Wheeling Park began to chip away at the lead as a three-pointer by Ryan Reinbeau and a pair of free throws by Bledsoe trimmed the lead to 44-39 with 4:15 to play.

The Warriors got an inside bucket from Andrew Drayer but Reinbeau struck once again from long range to trim the lead to just four.

French’s three and a jumper by Reece Patton sandwiched an old fashioned three-point play by Saseen and sent the Warriors to the final period clinging to a 51-47 lead.

Reinbeau connected on four triples in the game including one to open the final quarter to pull the Pat’s to within a single point at 51-50.

Drayer converted on one-of-two free throws but Bledsoe answered with a pair of free throws to tie the score at 52-52 with less than six minutes to play.

Patton’s bucket regained the lead for Warren but a three-ball from Trenton Smith gave Wheeling Park it’s first lead since early in the opening quarter at 55-54.

The lead would go back and forth between the two before a three-point play by Hall gave the Warriors a two-possession lead at 63-59 with 2:24 to play.

The Patriots came right back on field goals by Reinbeau and Bledsoe to once again even things up at 63-63.

After Patton scored on a great pass from Drayer to put the Warriors back on top, Bledsoe was at it once again, this time converting on an assist from Reinbeau to set up the dramatic final minute.

Warren struggled at the free-throw line in the game as the Warriors converted just 12-of-22 from the charity stripe including five misses in the final quarter alone.

Instead of playing for one final shot, the Warriors elected put up a shot with 30 seconds to play and when they missed, Wheeling Park got their chance.

“It was an open shot but we would have liked to taken that shot a little later to give us the last possession,” said Warren head coach Blane Maddox.

The Warriors were out rebounded in the game 33-27 by Wheeling Park but none was bigger than Bledsoe’s last one.

“The bottom line is they came up with 12 offensive rebounds and the big one for the game winner,” said Maddox of the finish. “Just a couple of mistakes here and there cost us.”

Reinbeau led the Patriots in scoring with 21 points while Smith and Bledsoe added 14 markers apiece.

French led all scorers with 24 points while Patton finished with a double-double, piling up 20 points to go along with 10 boards.

Jebbia knew that the small Warrior Coliseum would be a tough place to play for his Patriots (4-1) and was pleased to escape with a hard earned victory.

“We knew it was going to be a hostile environment and it might have been even a little more hostile than I imagined,” said Jebbia. “I had a feeling it was going to come down to the last minute because Warren is a great team and I would not be surprised if they are back in Columbus.”

The Warriors slipped to 5-3 with the loss but Maddox feels that playing teams as strong as Park will prove beneficial later in the season.

“We competed well we played hard and I think we are making strides,” said Maddox of his team’s effort. “Hopefully the level of competition we are playing will help us out down the road.”

The Warriors will resume South Eastern Ohio Athletic League play Friday night when they travel to Jackson.