WHEELING - Shooting the basketball may have been a season-long problem for the Wheeling Central girls, but that certainly wasn't the situation Wednesday night at Linsly's Stifel Field House.
Connecting on just under 50 percent of their shots (26-54) and netting 20 of 31 attempts from the free-throw line, the Maroon Knights outscored the Cadets 62-24 during the final three quarters while rolling to a 75-38 victory.
Trailing 14-13 after the first 8 minutes, a 13-4 run late in the first half sent Coach Penn Kurtz's club into the break ahead 33-22. This was followed by an 18-3 third-quarter spurt that locked up Central's ninth victory in 20 starts this season.
''We shot the ball well, and that is the whole difference for our team,'' Kurtz said. ''If we had only shot 34 percent for the entire season, we probably would be 14-5 right now.''
Fortunately for Kurtz and the Knights, the best part of the season is ahead of them. After playing host to another city rival, Wheeling Park, this evening, Central will head into the West Virginia Class A sectional play Tuesday when it hopes to begin a postseason run that results in a return trip to the state tournament next month. State champions in 2008, the Knights reached the quarterfinals last March before falling to eventual tournament titlist Charleston Catholic.
During Kurtz's first 17 seasons at the Central helm, his teams have made the state tournament 14 times, winning Class A titles in 2004 and 2008.
''After a game like that (Wednesday night), you feel pretty good as a coach,'' Kurtz said. ''If we keep playing like this, we have a shot at getting back to Charleston.''
Kurtz was especially pleased with his team's defensive effort in the third quarter, when Central limited Linsly to one field goal, a 3-pointer by Rachel Dodd.
''They scored 22 points in the first half and I told our girls to come out strong and shut them down,'' Kurtz said. ''Their girls are excellent shooters and we did a great job of shutting them down.''
The Maroon Knights' size advantage inside also proved too much for the Cadets, who were outrebounded by a 49-24 advantage.
While Central is looking forward to the postseason, the end of a long, injury-riddled winter campaign was reached Wednesday night for Linsly. The Cadets came into the year with an all-underclass roster and then quickly found their ranks further depleted early by the injury bug.
''We had three varsity girls out all season long and a couple of jayvee players as well,'' pointed out Linsly Coach Erica Hall after her team finished with a 4-14 record. ''We had some good shooters but we needed a strong post player to compete with nearly every team on our schedule. We had to play Jessica (Jenkins) in there and she obviously isn't a post player. But she battled hard and did a very good job under the circumstances.''
Linsly was without a double-figure scorer in the loss to Central as Rachel Dodd finished with nine points while Emma Cecil and Jenkins added eight each.
Caitlin Creighton tossed in 13 points for the Maroon Knight girls, supported by Cassie Sorge and Kelsea Crawshaw with 10 each.