Winfield's Zach Fisher (center) controls the ball during a recent game against Ripley.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wheeling Park has always been willing to go the extra mile - or hundreds of miles - to get its basketball team the best possible schedule.Witness then the Patriots' trip to Charleston to compete in the 15th Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hoops Classic, a wall-to-wall basketball event that tips off early today at the Civic Center.Park (2-0) tangles with Winfield (3-0) at approximately 6:45 tonight in one of the featured games of the two-day, 16-game showcase held at the site of the annual state tournament in March."We've actually been trying to do this for the last few years,'' said Park coach Michael Jebbia. "We've been able to take advantage of it and we've been able to get down there.''
The Patriots played the Generals in the same pairing last year at the Hoops Classic, earning a 61-57 victory.But Park won't be satisfied with just one trip to the Kanawha Valley this season. It also has games scheduled at George Washington (Dec. 28) and South Charleston (March 1).Jebbia is anxious to see how his squad matches up with some of the state's better programs, since the Patriots sport just one senior on their roster in 6-foot-4 guard Luke Saseen, a four-year regular.Another potential senior, Zach Phillips, the quarterback on the Patriots' Class AAA playoff semifinal football team, elected not to play basketball this season in order to concentrate on football.Jebbia said the makeup of his team is a bit different than past years."In some of the past years, we've been more athletic,'' Jebbia said, "but we have a little bit of everything. We have decent size in [6-5] Phil Bledsoe and [6-4] Chalmer Moffett, some pretty good shooters in Trenton Smith and Ryan Reinbeau and Luke is a four-year player."We were kind of lacking at point guard, but Toddy Goodwin-Rowe transferred from Linsly. He actually came back - he went through our middle school system, then went to private school for two years.''Jebbia also expects support off the bench from sophomoresSavion Johnson and Elijah Bell.Winfield, meanwhile, has gotten explosive scoring from several sources in shooting out to its 3-0 mark.Zach Fisher cranks out 23 points per game, Bear Bellomy 20.3 and Toby Show 16.0. Each of those three has turned in at least one game of 26 or more points this season as the Generals averageda healthy 83.7 ppg in wins against Ripley, Nitro and Oak Hill.Another top game on today's bill features Brooke (2-1) against South Charleston, which opened on Wednesday with an 88-49 conquest of Princeton behind 24 points from Brandon Knapper.
The weekend hoopfest opens at 10:45 a.m. today with Elk Valley Christian meeting Wood County Christian in a girls game.Saturday's schedule doubles as the Big 10-Cardinal Conference Challenge, as the two Class AA leagues pair up against one another starting at 8 a.m.Since the Cardinal had fewer teams than the north central West Virginia Big 10, Class A Van steps in to play Liberty Harrison in the opener at 8.The Cardinal Conference has long been a state power in many sports at the double-A level, but the Big 10 became an instant contender last season when several of its schools dropped from AAA to AA.In fact, three Big 10 teams reached the AA state semifinals at last year's boysstate tournament - Bridgeport, Fairmont Senior and Robert C. Byrd. Scott and Tolsia of the Cardinal were first-round losers in the big show last season.Three Big 10 teams are ranked in AA preseason state poll, No. 2 Bridgeport, No. 3 RCB and No. 5 Fairmont Senior, with Cardinal teams checking in from seven to 10-Poca, Scott, Mingo Central and Tolsia.
Two of the better matchups occur at the end of Saturday's session, with Scott battling Fairmont Senior at approximately 6:30 and Poca playing RCB at 8.Tickets for the Hoops Classic are priced at $5 for an entire day of games.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.