WHEELING - In a matchup of one-victory teams Tuesday night at the Wheeling Central 13th Street Gymnasium, John Marshall rolled out to an early lead and never looked back in thumping the Maroon Knights 63-39.
''I'm just elated for these kids," Monarchs coach Bill Storm said. ''They deserved something good happening. They've never quit and the attitude has been good all season."
Despite foul problems that forced him to sit out nearly half the game, Justin Wade led the John Marshall (2-7) scoring with 16 points, including seven in the first quarter. However, the Monarchs bench, especially Evan Magers and Kenny Allen, provided the spark that enabled the visitors to keep widening the 16-9 lead they built at the end of the opening quarter.
Wheeling Central’s Braxton Nolte (33) and JM’s Tanner Filben go for a loose ball Tuesday night.
Photo by Josh Strope
Magers, although running into foul problems himself during the second half, tossed in 13 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the floor and he was perfect in all four attempts at the free-throw line. Allen also played some important minutes and scored six points.
''We knew Evan could play after watching him over the summer," Storm said. ''We've been patient with him and I thought he did a great job.''
The veteran coach also was pleased with the Monarchs' free-throw shooting and the way they took care of the basketball. John Marshall had been averaging 21 turnovers a game and its free-throw shooting was right around 50 percent for the season. Tuesday, the Monarchs had just eight turnovers and were 21 of 29 from the line.
Regardless of Central's record (1-7) Storm talked about the difficulty of defeating a Mel Stephens-coached team.
''To come here and win isn't easy, because Mel always has them prepared,'' Storm said. ''I feel his pain. He didn't get dumb overnight. If you can't score, it's tough to beat anybody.''
Central held the lead in the opening minute after Braxton Nolte hit the first of a two-shot foul, missed the second attempt but got the rebound and scored on the stickback to put the Maroon Knights in front 3-0.
The 6-foot-5 Wade quickly tied it with a power move inside for a layup, drawing a foul in the process and then cashing the free throw.
Aaron Fonner's two successful attempts from the line, followed by a Magers 3-pointer just behind the circle at the top of the key gave John Marshall an 8-3 lead. Following Justin Hammers' pull-up jumper for the Maroon Knights, Tanner Filben scored on a beautifully executed pick-and-roll move. Back-to-back goals from Wade capped off his seven-point first quarter as John Marshall opened the lead to 16-9.
Just 52 seconds into the second quarter, Wade was sent to the bench after picking his second and third fouls. The Maroon Knights were unable to take advantage of the big guy's foul problems, thanks mainly to Magers' six points in the quarter and their own shooting woes as John Marshall built the led to 29-14 at the half.
Central was able to sink just 1 of 9 field goal attempts during the second quarter and the hosts also struggled at the line, netting only 3 of 8 attempts.
''They played better than we did," Stephens said. ''We had a couple of opportunities to make plays and we didn't get it done.
''I thought we had taken a couple of steps forward in our loss to Pittsburgh Central last Friday but we definitely went backwards (Tuesday). We gave up 63 points to a team that usually doesn't score like that. Take nothing away from John Marshall. They put the ball in the hole and did the things they needed to do. We gave them too many easy opportunities."
Although Wade picked up his fourth foul 90 seconds into the third quarter and both Fonner and Magers also had to sit out several minutes after being charged with their fourth personals, the Monarchs continued to pad the lead. Fonner, Filben, Kenny Allen and Magers each scored four points during the third as John Marshall led 47-27 heading into the final eight minutes.
Fonner was just 1 of 9 from from the floor and scored seven points but was praised by Storm for his rebounding and defensive contributions.
''Aaron did his job by staying on Nolte the whole game. We told him not to leave him, even to help on defense. He had to have a bunch of rebounds as well," Storm said.
Nolte, the Maroon Knights' leading scorer on the season, was limited to seven shots and nine points. Hammers was Central's only double-digit scorer with 11 points.
''Hopefully, we can turn this win into something good," Storm said.
It won't be easy for the Monarchs as their next game comes up Thursday night against a talented Morgantown club. Central hits the road to play Morgantown Trinity tonight and then has back-to-back games Friday and Saturday in the Tyler Consolidated tournament.