CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- George Washington's opening night received mixed reviews Saturday.
The Patriots trailed by double digits most of the game before making a late push that came up short in a 51-47 decision to Wheeling Park in their season opener. A crowd of about 300 attended the Class AAA matchup of top-five teams at George Washington High School.
GW, No. 3 in the state coaches association preseason poll, trailed from the first few minutes of the opening quarter and still was behind by as much as 10 points in the fourth quarter. The Patriots battled back after turning up the defensive pressure and forcing No. 2 Park into eight turnovers in the final period to pull within one point (48-47) on junior post Kelli Jo Harrison's putback with 27.5 seconds left.
Park junior guard Marissa Tucker was fouled on a steal attempt by GW and hit both ends of a 1-plus-1 for a 50-47 advantage with 17.7 seconds to go. GW sophomore point guard Alanna Mobayed missed a running 3-pointer and Tucker secured the rebound and hit 1 of 2 foul shots with 2.1 seconds left to set the final score.
It wasn't the opening night that GW, which garnered two first-place votes in the poll, had envisioned after returning five starters from a team that has advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament the past two seasons. The Patriots shot 28.1 percent (18 of 64) from the floor, including a 4-of-31 effort on 3s, and missed eight free throws.
"I thought we got our composure back after the first half,'' said GW coach Jamie LaMaster. "Too many first-game mistakes. There are no excuses with this team. This team has been together too long and played in too many big games to let anything both them.
"They found themselves a little bit in the second half and played a lot better. I come away from this positive. I think these are two of the best teams in the state. I was pleased with the effort. They showed a will to win. We'll look at our mistakes and get better every time out. That's our goal.''
GW's Harrison provided the muscle inside with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting and added 11 rebounds and four steals while Ward was the only other double-figure scorer with 11 points on 4-of-17 accuracy. Patriots senior guard Kayla Stewart and senior post Leslie Gilmore combined for 12 points and 15 boards.