WHEELING - Long, lean and athletic, Pittsburgh Central Catholic got the 2012 Cancer Research Classic off to an impressive start Friday night at Wheeling Jesuit University's Alma Grace McDonough Center.
The talented Vikings put on an early show of transition basketball and crowd-pumping dunks to open the seven-game weekend in spectacular fashion by rolling past struggling Wheeling Central, 75-34.
Pittsburgh Central, now 4-3 with one of its losses coming against Gonzaga by 10 points in a Christmas Tournament held in Washington, D.C., jumped in front 3-0 when David Urso rained in a 3-pointer from the right wing. Braxton Nolte, Wheeling Central's leading scorer, then got his only two points on a challenging drive to the basket. However, the Vikings responded to score 18 of the next 20 points to salt this one way.
Wheeling Central’s Braxton Nolte (33) shoots over Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s Lincoln Davis (5) on Friday night. Davis is a Pitt recruit.
Photo by Rick Thorp
Included in that torrid run were four more 3-pointers, two each by stellar 6-foot-2 senior guard Lincoln Davis and Garret Vrbanic, along with some crisp alley-oop passes that set up Davis and the 6-6 Claude Scott for dunks. Davis had nine of his points during the first eight minutes.
The Vikings led 24-10 after the opening quarter, 42-18 at the half and 58-26 after three rounds.
''I thought we got into it pretty quick with our pressure,'' Pittsburgh Central coach Chuck Crummie said. ''We also hit a bunch of 3s which we hadn't done the last two or three games. That combination got us off to our fast start. If we can run up and down and do those things, we are a pretty good team.''
For the Maroon Knights, it was a case of facing an opponent that was too quick, too talented and almost too everything for them to stay close. Trying to battle through an especially difficult schedule without a single starter back from last season, Wheeling Central has managed one victory in the first eight games.
Still, Coach Mel Stephens found a couple of positives in the Maroon Knights' effort.
''We did some good things,'' he insisted. ''We battled and the effort in the first half was probably our best all year. In the second half, we ran out of gas but the kids continued to play hard.''
Stephens felt Central had some opportunities against the Vikings press that it failed to convert.
''Their pressure did result in some turnovers but what hurt us more was once we had the press beat, we did not make good decisions either shooting or passing the basketball,'' he explained.
Davis and Scott scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, as they were the only Pittsburgh Central players to reach double figures. However, the big lead allowed Coach Crummie to get all 13 players dressed into the game and every one of them dented the scoring column.
''We did a nice job playing half-court and got several back door baskets,'' Crummie said. ''I thought we stayed pretty focused and the guys off the bench continued that intensity.''
Crummie pointed out the quick-footed Davis was attracting a lot more interest as he moves through his senior season.
''Lincoln had schools like Duquesne, Robert Morris, Hofstra and St. Francis looking at him,'' Crummie said. ''Then he played really well in the tournament when we went to in D.C. and some others like Loyola are now looking at him closely.''
Scott, a good leaper but thin as a rail, has been drawing Division-II interest, including CRC host Wheeling Jesuit.
Jordan Hartman led the Wheeling Central scoring with eight points, followed by David Park and Justin Hammers with seven and six, respectively.
The Maroon Knights were hopeful they could stay close by forcing the Vikings to shoot the ball from the outside.
''Because they were so athletic we wanted to try and force them to shoot jump shots,'' Stephens said. ''Then they came out and shot almost 50 percent from the floor in the half. We were able to take the ball inside and got some good looks but just did not get them to fall.''