MOUNDSVILLE - For those pure basketball fans that showed up at the John Marshall Field House on Wednesday night, it was likely difficult to believe the two teams playing had a combined three victories. John Marshall threatened to pull away in the fourth quarter but had to hold off a furious rally by Wheeling Central before settling for a 66-57 victory and a season sweep of the series.
The Monarchs' Aaron Fonner had a line of eight points, four steals, four rebounds and two assists, but his most telling stat of the night was the numbers of Maroon Knights leading scorer Braxton Nolte. They read: one field goal, 0 of 0 at the free-throw line and two points.
''I thought Fonner did a heckuva job on Nolte,'' John Marshall (3-9) coach ill Storm said. ''That was his job and I think he held him to two points.
Wheeling Central’s Raquan Ingram (15) dribbles against John Marshall’s Evan Magers (23) during Wednesday’s game.
Photo by Shawn Rine
''That's a heckuva job because he's a player.''
Thanks to the one-two punch of Justin Wade (game high-tying 21 points, nine rebounds, four blocked shots) and Evan Magers (19 points including four 3-pointers), the Monarchs grabbed their largest lead at 57-37 on a Tanner Filben layup with 5:05 remaining.
But Raquan Ingram, Justin Hammers and David Park refused to go quietly and the Maroon Knights (1-12) cut that deficit to five in a little less than four minutes. However, Wade got lose for a layup and Fonner hit a pair of free throws to put it away.
Wheeling Central got back into it with a 16-2 run that was fueled by full-court pressure that forced John Marshall into seven fourth-quarter turnovers.
''I was worried to go man against them because we had no time to prepare for them - we just played Shadyside (on Tuesday) night,'' Maroon Knights coach Mel Stephens said. ''Hindsight, it's easy and I maybe could have gone to it earlier, but I think part of it was we went to it and we were aggressive, and they were kind of in that protect mode.
''If it would have been earlier in the game and they would have been attacking a little more, we might not have had as much success.''
John Marshall won the first matchup 69-39 and was threatening to make this another laugher. Wade muscled inside for 11 of his total in the third quarter as the Monarchs increased a four-point halftime lead to 10.
Magers did the majority of his damage in the first half with 10 points and at one point seemed to be playing a game of can-you-top-this with the Maroon Knights' Park, who buried a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter to score 11 of his team-leading 21.
''Park stepped up for them (but) our defense wasn't very good again,'' Storm said. ''We thought we could go triangle-and-2 in the second half and then Hammers came in there and hit two and took us out of that.
''We're holding teams to about 59 (points) which is where we've been since I've been head coach, but we're not real quick and we're not helping each other.
''We can't defend the perimeter because of our lack of quickness. But nobody is helping inside.''
Hammers finished with 18 points while Ingram checked in with 16. Filben netted 11 for the Monarchs.
The Maroon Knights may only have one victory, but Stephens sees his team improving.
''Right now it's just the youth, really,'' he said. ''We're starting to get into the stretch run.
''I just told them 'I don't care if we go into the tournament 1-21, maybe we'll set a record for being the first team to ever go to state tournament with only one win when the tournament started.' "