WHEELING - Not many people will argue the Wheeling Central girls' basketball team has been down the past two seasons.
Sure, the Maroon Knights qualified for the state tournament in Charleston both seasons, but both those teams ended with losing records and one-and-dones once they reached the big stage. In fact, the 2009 version lost to Bishop Donahue in the sectional championship before upsetting Williamstown in the regional co-final to make it that far.
And this is two seasons coming off a remarkable run in which Wheeling Central won the state title in 2008.
Cassie Sorge and Wheeling Central are back to their winning ways.
Photo by Josh Strope
But just when you thought it was safe to put the Maroon Knights on the schedule, guess what? They're back.
''I think we can be a pretty good team,'' Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz said after Thursday's 63-39 victory against Linsly. ''We have good balance. We have good presence inside, outside. Most of the time we play pretty good defense so we can do a lot of good things on the court.
''We just have to see how well we come together over the last half of the season.''
So far the Maroon Knights are off to a good start at 11-3. They were the winners of the Main Street Bank-Undo's Ohio Valley Catholic Tournament last month, defeating rival Charleston Catholic in the title game.
Wheeling Central also earned a lopsided victory against city rival Wheeling Park.
As for the defeats, two of those came against undefeated teams in Shadyside and West Virginia Class A No. 1-ranked St. Marys (which eliminated the Maroon Knights in last season's state tournament).
The difference so far this season has been the scoring.
Last season, Wheeling Central scored 40.6 points per game. Through 14 games this season, the Maroon Knights are putting the ball in the basket at 58.6 points per game. Their lowest output was 44 points in the victory against Charleston Catholic.
''We shot 22 percent from the floor last year and now we are shooting the ball much better,'' Kurtz said. ''That goes because of Cassie (Sorge), Emily (Bucon) and Molly (Kurtz). We have an inside game with Colleen McCormick and Libby Altmeyer, Ashley Martin, Julia Palmer. They can all score and that helps.
''Last year, if the team stopped Cassie, we struggled to score. So we have balance in every position and that makes it easier to score points.''
Wheeling Central is back on the floor Thursday as it tries to avenge its loss to Shadyside on the road. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.
They Have Our Number
With the schedule the Wheeling Park boys play, it wasn't likely the Patriots were going to go undefeated in the state of West Virginia.
Already edged out by Archbishop John Carroll during last weekend's Cancer Research Classic at Wheeling Jesuit University, Coach Michael Jebbia's team dropped its second straight with a loss Friday night to Logan.
Even without Noah Cottrill, last season's West Virginia Player of the Year and former West Virginia University recruit, Logan got the best of Wheeling Park for the fourth straight time.
Wheeling Park dropped all three meetings against Logan last season, including the Class AAA state championship game.
Not to worry Patriots fans. With a wealth of talent headlined by Bubby Goodwin and Marqez O'Neal, Wheeling Park bounced back Saturday night with a 102-96 victory against Ripley (6-3).
As for the defending state champion Wildcats, the Patriots will get another shot at them when Logan visits the Palace on the Hill on Feb. 12.
That Time of the Year
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were busy days last week in the high school basketball scene, as compared to the beginning of the week.
Snow wiped out many of the games, leaving athletics directors around the OVAC scrambling for make-up dates. Best of luck to them!
There are a few snow showers expected this week, but it doesn't look like anything serious. Hopefully we can have a full slate of games.
Josh Strope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org