Wheeling knocks off Maine West
Wheeling's boys basketball team hit rock bottom after dropping all four games at its own Hardwood Classic in December.
The Wildcats had a 3-11 record and had no where to go but up.
Coach Michael O'Keeffe called a team meeting on Jan. 2 and the players listened.
"We had a heart-to-heart meeting," said O'Keeffe. "I emphasized going with a fresh start and it's been working for us. We're 6-6 since that time and three of those loses were by three points or less."
The Wildcats continued to make strides by holding off Maine West 69-62 Tuesday night in a nonconference tilt in Wheeling. The loss broke a four-game losing streak to the Warriors and avenged a 57-50 loss at the Hardwood Classic.
Brandon Zettek scored a career-high 26 points to go with 4 rebounds. Teammate Michael Best, who just committed to Lake Forest College for basketball, notched 19 points including 11 of 12 from the free throw line. Best hit 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter and grabbed 7 rebounds in the game.
Wheeling (9-17) was having its way against the Warriors (13-12) for three quarters.
Zettek scored 14 of Wheeling's 20 points in the third quarter to open a 53-36 lead.
Joe Jordan and Jeremy Kim, part of the Wildcats' core group, each scored 8 points.
"My teammates found me with some really good passes and I was able to finish the shots," said Zettek. "Maine West woke up in the fourth quarter. We had tried to slow it down but they wanted to speed it up. We need to finish our games better. I'm going to enjoy the rest of the night. This was a big win for the team."
"A lot of Wheeling's offense game because our defense was slow reacting," said Maine West coach Tom Prokopij.
"We had a real nice possession early in the fourth quarter with four or five passes touching players' hands and we scored. That got us going and the kids realized that they were having fun playing defense and scoring. We're hoping for more fun to come."
The Warriors pulled to within 4 points twice at 62-58 after a 8-0 run and then 64-60 with 56 seconds left on Lucas Glasiter's 2 free throws.
Best hit 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
"We had chemistry at the start of the year," said Best, " but not good chemistry. We changed things around both on offense and defense and it's been working for us after the start of the (new) year. We're building some momentum at the end of the year and we're making good strides."
Danny Rice led Maine West with 12 points. Jared Pearson and Isaiah Siem-Davis each scored 10 points.