By KIM NORTH
For The Intelligencer
SHADYSIDE - The 2011-12 boys' basketball season hasn't been a kind one to Shadyside.
Ed Andes' Tigers have struggled in just about every aspect of the game, including at the free-throw line where they were shooting just a shade better than 60 percent.
Tuesday night was a different story as Shadyside meshed a season-high 31 of 42 free throws in defeating Wheeling Central, 65-56.
''We missed some down the stretch, but overall we shot the ball pretty well from the line,'' Andes said. ''Some guys that have been struggling some at the line stepped up and knocked them down.''
When the Maroon Knights' David Park buried a 3-pointer just ahead of the first-quarter buzzer, it appeared as though the visitors (1-12) had taken all of the momentum away from Shadyside.
But momentum can be a funny thing.
The Tigers regained it once the second quarter began and went on a 12-0 run that built a lead they would never relinquish.
''That I felt was the ultimate,'' Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. ''We dug ourselves that hole to start the second quarter and really could never catch up.''
Once the hosts got the lead, they took the ball to the basket and made the Maroon Knights foul them, which resulted in the 40-plus trips to the free-throw line.
''I thought the free throw was the difference,'' Stephens said. ''They went there 42 times and we went 14. That was the difference.''
Junior Adam Stupak led Shadyside's surge as he tallied eight points in the stretch, including a pair of 3-pointers - one that ignited the outburst and one that concluded it.
The margin ballooned to 14, 30-16, before Wheeling Central scored the final six points to make a game of it at the half, 30-22.
An 18-10 scoring advantage in the third stanza pushed the count to 48-32 after three quarters as freshman Austin Dorris netted eight of his game-high 21 points in the frame and Skyler Gibson had six.
The Maroon Knights sliced the deficit to eight a couple of times in the final period, but the Tigers' free-throw shooting carried them.
Shadyside converted on 13 of 20 attempts in the fourth quarter, including a 9-for-12 by Stupak, who tied Dorris for game scoring honors.
''My kids gave me a better effort and that is all we can ask for,'' Stephens noted. ''We did some good things in the fourth quarter, but it was a little too late.''
Braxton Nolte led the Maroon Knights with 20 points. Park added 14.
In addition to 42 points from Dorris and Stupak, Gibson added 10 and D.J. Shoemaker nine off the bench.
''Hopefully we can build some momentum off this win,'' Andes said. ''I kept telling the kids that Wheeling Central was going to make a run, and we had to be able to survive it.
''(Tuesday), for once, our kids relaxed and played a really nice game for four quarters.''
With the victory, Shadyside virtually locked up an OVAC Tournament Class 2-A berth thanks to five teams in the division being ineligible for playoff competition.
Shadyside held a commanding 47-38 edge off the glass behind Dorris' 11. Shoemaker grabbed eight and Gibson seven. Jordan Hartman had nine for Wheeling Central, while Park snared eight.