WHEELING - Freshman guard Chase Harler swished four crucial free throws in the final minute that enabled Wheeling Central to stave off Shadyside's furious rally as the Maroon Knights held on for a 70-67 victory Friday night at the 13th Street Gymnasium.
Coach Mel Stephens' club took advantage of the Tigers' slow start from the field to build a 12-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter, only to see the short-handed visitors rally to tie the score at 62-62 with exactly one minute remaining on Chase Stupak's baseline runner.
Harler then was hacked on his way to the basket and nailed both ends of the double bonus to restore the lead for the Maroon Knights with 46 seconds on the clock.
Shadyside (2-2) had an opportunity to go in front for the first time all night but Skyler Gibson's 3-point attempt jumped off the rim and Zach Frizzi also missed a putback try before Central's David Park was fouled pulling down the rebound.
Park, who would finish as the Maroon Knights' scoring leader with 17 points while Harler added 16, managed to hit 1 of 2 free throws, putting the lead at 65-62.
Gibson went to the line with 17 seconds to play and made 1 of 2 before Park was fouled again and this time he was on target with both his free throws for a 67-63 spread with 10 seconds left, but this game was far from over.
Stupak, finishing off a 12-point fourth quarter that gave him 19, overall, drove coast to coast for an uncontested layup four seconds later.
Raquan Ingram was immediately fouled as he accepted the inbounds pass and added one free throw, leaving Central again ahead by three at 68-65.
During a timeout, Stephens decided to have his team foul Gibson in the backcourt with 3.9 seconds showing. The Tigers' forward went 2-for-2, making it a one-point game. Harler took the inbounds pass and was put back on the line where he again drained both foul shots, leaving just enough time left for the Tigers to rush the ball up court to Stupak for a possble game-tying 3-pointer. His shot bounced off the front of the rim before spinning out of the cylinder as time finally expired.
The Tigers, playing without their tallest starter - sophomore pivot Austin Dorris is away on a family trip this weekend - scored 31 points in the fourth quarter after having trailed 13-6 after the first eight minutes, 27-17 at the half and 48-36 heading into the last chapter.
''They were missing their pick kid and that was a disadvantage for them and a little bit of a problem for us," Stephens said.
Added Shadyside Coach Ed Andes: ''If we had played like that in the beginning, made some shots and some free throws, we might have been able to go home with a win. Games between Shadyside and Central are always fun and that is why we like playing each other. Both teams laid it out there and this time they won."
While the Tigers were unable to get their first points until two minutes remained in the the first quarter when Gibson get free under the basket for a layup, Central came out on fire and led 11-0. Brandon Wallace and Chance Siebieda scored on putbacks, followed by Justin Hammers' 3-pointer and a power drive to the basket by Park. Harler came off the bench and made his presence felt with a nice move off a pick for a easy basket.
Early in the second quarter, Harler warmed up and buried back-to-back trifectas, followed by another from Hammers, who would score 11 points on the night, The 3-point barrage would extend Central's advantage to 21-8 before the Tigers closed the gap some to get within 10 by the intermission.
''We got enough shots in the first half and we also had 15 offensive rebounds with a lot of them coming on second and third chances," Stephens said.