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Maroon Knights upend cross-town rival Park

December 5, 2007
Wheeling Central Catholic shot better than 50 percent from the floor in the first half and relied on a stifling defense to open a huge lead that resulted in a 49-31 thumping of Wheeling Park in Tuesday night’s girls’ basketball opener at the Patriots’ gymnasium.

The Maroon Knights connected on 13 of 25 attempts, including six trifectas while exploding to a 34-15 advantage by halftime. Central’s quick start sealed Park’s fate in Meredith Anderson’s debut as the Patriots’ coach.

Central senior wing Kat Stiglich scored 13 of her game-high 14 points in the first half, as she swished 3 of 4 attempts from beyond the arc, knocked down a pair of free throws and added a basket on a leaner from in the lane.

‘‘Kat’s very capable of shooting lights out,’’ pointed out Penn Kurtz, the pleased Central coach. ‘‘In the first half she was making everything. But she has a bit of a back problem and I thought she got a little tired in the second half.’’

The Maroon Knights did provide their coach with a lot of positives in the opener. The game was never in doubt, although the Central shooters cooled off considerably in the second half when the visitors were able to cash only 5 of 24 attempts at the basket. Fortunately for them, Wheeling Park was having its own problems shooting the ball. The Patriots never got their offense in sync against Central’s determined defense.

‘‘Central pressured the ball very well and we didn’t take it off the dribble enough,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘They made it very difficult to run our stuff. We were shooting the ball too quick and not allowing ourselves to get in position for any offensive rebounds.’’

The Patriots, who figured to have an edge inside with rangy seniors Katelynn Hackathorn and Annie DeFruscio, managed to get very few second shots. Only twice was Hackathorn able to come down with an offensive rebound and score on stickback attempts.

‘‘I was pleased with our balance and our depth,’’ Kurtz said. ‘‘Everybody got in the game and contributed in some way. If we keep shooting the ball the way we did in the first half, we will be tough to beat.’’

Joining Stiglich in double figures for the Maroon Knights was Kara DeSantis, who had 11 points and also provided some solid rebounding help. When floor leader Audra Droginske ran into some foul problems, Crystal Kleeh took over running the offense and also fired in a pair of long-distance treys in the opening half. Val Palmer also netted two triples on the way to an eight-point game.

Wheeling Park, meanwhile, didn’t have a double-digit scorer and failed to reach at least 10 points in any quarter. DeFruscio led the Patriots with nine points.

With Park missing its first five shots, Central gained the lead and never looked back. Stiglich drained back-to-back treys for a 6-0 advantage while the Patriots were unable to get on the scoreboard until DeFruscio finally swished a two-pointer out of the corner to break the ice at the 4:25 mark of the opening quarter.

However, the quick-handed Palmer came up with a steal near midcourt and sailed coast to coast for a layup to restore the six-point lead.

Lucie DeFruscio, Annie’s freshman sister, then scored for the Patriots but the Maroon Knights closed the quarter with a 9-2 run go on top 17-6. Caitlyn Creighton banked in a 15-foot one-hander, DeSantis was on the mark with a runner from just inside the circle and followed that up with a needle-threading pass for a layup by Lindsey Beaver.

Hackathorn drove to the basket for a two-pointer only to have Kleeh bury a 20-foot trey from behind the circle at the buzzer.

The second quarter was similar to the first eight minutes. Park continued to struggle finding shooting room while the Maroon Knights were hitting on six of their 10 attempts, including one 3-pointer each from Kleeh, Stiglich and Palmer.

Central opened the gap to 34-15 at the intermission, which was its widest margin of the night until a DeSantis follow shot near the end of the fourth quarter put the Maroon Knights ahead by 20 at 49-29.

Kurtz credit the hard-nosed play of his team but also claimed that the Patriots inexperienced backcourt was a factor.

‘‘Park is missing the guards they’ve always had in the past and that hurt them. But I don’t want to take anything away from our girls. We work really hard on defense every day and I thought we did a great job of limiting their opportunities,’’ he said.

Anderson took some consolation from Park’s determination despite being way behind most of the game.

‘‘The girls didn’t quit and you have to appreciate their effort,’’ she said. “They are very coachable and willing to work hard to get better.’’

Article Photos

Photo by Mike Hughes
Wheeling Park’s Erika Martin is guarded by Wheeling Central’s Val Palmer. View additional photos at

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