GLEN DALE - Wheeling Central's girls' basketball team did not play its best game Saturday night in the championship of the John Marshall Holiday Tournament.
However, Coach Penn Kurtz' Maroon Knights, while not always proficient on offense, did an outstanding job on defense, forcing the host Monarchs into a terrible shooting night in coming away with the title.
Junior Emily Bucon fired in a game-high 19 points, including a huge 10 in the opening quarter, and Central limited John Marshall's big three of Kylie Howard, Alexis Montes and Jenna Stephens to 24 points as the Maroon Knights held on for a 47-38 victory at John Marshall High School.
Kurtz' crew improved to 5-2 with the victory while first-year coach Mark McCormick suffered his initial loss with his Monarchs sitting at 3-1. It won't take long for John Marshall to get its shot at revenge as the two teams face off again on Wednesday night in East Wheeling.
While both teams were very close statistically with the Monarchs winning the rebounding battle, 36-35, and the Knights committing fewer turnovers, 14-15, shooting woes hampered both.
John Marshall finished just 15 of 56 from the floor for a dismal 27 percent, but Wheeling Central wasn't much better, netting 16 of 49 for 33 percent.
Leading just 6-5, Central went on an 11-1 tear to finish off the first quarter with Bucon leading the way with 10 points and four rebounds.
Central managed to eventually take a 28-17 upper hand to the locker room at halftime.
Neither team shot the ball overly well in the first half as the Maroon Knights hit 10 of 28 and the Monarchs were just 6 of 27 from the field.
"Emily does an outstanding job getting penetration, and that really opens things up for us, and she is also such a good finisher," Kurtz said. "She really is the key to our offense working."
Central tallied the initial seven points of the third chapter to open up the biggest lead of the night at 35-17, but John Marshall scored the next eight to cut it back to 10. It was a 12-point margin after three that grew to 14 in the fourth before a Montes hoop trimmed it to just 45-38 with 59 ticks remaining.
"We struggled getting the ball into the post early, but got better as the game went on," Kurtz added. "I felt we matched up with them very well and did a good job on Howard and controlled Montes on the boards.
"I know Kylie (Howard) was playing on one leg, but you have to give her credit, she worked the entire game. The defense was good the whole game, but we had some turnovers in the fourth quarter that we need to work on.
"Anytime you can come here and get away with a win it is a good thing. They are a tough, strong, physical team and it is always a great challenge to play John Marshall."
Senior Bri Robbins added 12 for Central while Colleen McCormick and Cassie Sorge had eight each. The Knights only had four girls score in the contest.
Howard finished with 11 for the Monarchs while Montes had 10. Stephens tallied the hosts first three points of the game on a conventional three, but never scored again.
"I don't know why, but we just didn't play with any sense of urgency on the offensive end," McCormick said. "And that is very uncharacteristic of us. We are not usually shell-shocked, but for some reason we were (Saturday).
"Our guards are very quick, but we just weren't able to get the transition game going at all. And give Central credit, they did a very good job limiting that on us. With that going on we weren't able to get into any flow or get any confidence.
"We also didn't rebound as well as I would have liked. As for Bucon, we knew she would drive and try to score and that is what we coached the kids to expect, we just did not do a very good job executing it."
Bucon, Robbins and Sorge were voted onto the all-tournament team for Wheeling Central while Howard and Montes were John Marshall's representatives.