WHEELING - Some of the grade school kids widened their eyes, dropped their jaws, turned to their parents and asked, 'did you see that shot?'
In the midst of ''one of those years,'' Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens feels like he's seen a hundred of 'em.
Linsly's Akil Blount drained a 55-foot buzzer-beater just ahead of halftime, giving him as many points at the break (18) as the entire Maroon Knights team, and the Cadets went on to cruise to a 72-49 victory and a season sweep of their county rivals.
Wheeling Central’s Braxton Nolte (33) dribbles against Linsly’s Akil Blount (24) during Friday night’s game at Stifel Field House. The Cadets completed a season sweep with a 72-49 victory.
Photo by Jim Elliott
''Even though we would have gone in with a big deficit, we had just hit a 3 (courtesy of David Park) and felt like we had a little momentum,'' Stephens said. ''Then (Blount) drains the long one and the momentum is gone - went the other way.''
Blount, who wound up with a game-high 28 points on Senior Night, is tough enough to stop on his own end. No one figured he needed to be guarded that closely from the CVS parking lot.
''That shot that Akil hit, we're not going to rely on it every night, but it definitely was a momentum swing,'' Linsly coach James Wallace said.
The Cadets opened the second half with a dunk by Jibri Blount that pushed their lead to 24 - its largest of the night - before Wheeling Central (1-14) clawed back and had a chance to lower its deficit to 14 late in the third quarter.
''We had some guys in foul trouble and we made some substitutions,'' Wallace said. ''They came out after halftime and played really hard. I expected it.''
For the most part, though, Linsly (9-5) grabbed a 20-point lead with a little more than 5 minutes left in the second quarter and maintained it.
''There's been some times in the past where 20 is not a safe lead,'' Wallace said. ''In a rivalry game like that, you get a couple of guys in foul trouble ... I would say no lead is safe until it's really over.''
Hey, these two schools are separated by a tunnel and a grocery store. Anything is possible.
''They have Braxton Nolte and David Park on the floor, they can make a lot of 3-point baskets really quickly and they're always really good defensively,'' Wallace added.
When Akil Blount was on his own end, along with teammate Anthony Wallace, they dominated inside. Wallace finished with 20 points - all from close enough to leave paint on his shoes.
''Akil and Anthony are both very good players,'' Stephens said. ''We thought we had a game plan to try to slow them down a little bit, but we didn't execute it very well. Any time they got the ball, they were able to get to the rim and score.''
Freshman Colton Coss provided three sparks off the bench for the Cadets, as he drilled a trio of 3-pointers and wound up with nine points.
Park led Wheeling Central with 11 points. Justin Hammers added nine and Raquan Ingram was 6 of 6 from the free-throw on his way to an eight-point night.