WHEELING - Tied at 15-15 at the end of the first quarter with visiting Charleston Catholic, Wheeling Central girls' basketball coach Penn Kurtz challenged his team to step up it defense the rest of the way.
His team responded in a major way, allowing 11 points in the final three periods, including two points in the second half.
Senior Colleen McCormick provided another outstanding effort with 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals and the Maroon Knights outscored the Irish by a whopping 49-11 margin during the final 24 minutes to cruise to an impressive 64-26 victory Saturday afternoon at Central's East Wheeling gym.
The victory moves Kurtz's squad to 7-1, with just a setback to powerful Huntington St. Joe's on the ledger. Next up for Wheeling Central is Bishop Donahue in the first round of the Undo's Tournament next week at Wheeling Jesuit University.
While McCormick, who has been on an absolute tear to begin the season, dropped in 10 points in the first quarter, consecutive hoops from Charleston Catholic's Christina O'Dell in the final 47 seconds left the score knotted at 15-15.
''I was a little upset with them scoring 15 points in the first quarter,'' Kurtz said with a smile. ''So I had a little talk with them between periods and we allowed just 11 points the rest of the way. We are going to be a very tough team to beat when we can play defense like that.''
Even though the speech worked the rest of the way, the Irish did get a basket from freshman Madison Helmick 20 seconds into the second as the visitors took their only lead.
Central used a 19-7 closing run in the second quarter to lead 34-24 at the half with McCormick scoring the final four points of the second.
The senior dandy returned to the court to drop in the initial nine points of the second half for a personal 13-2 run that pushed the count to 43-24. O'Dell's hoop at 2:49 of the third turned out to be the only points Charleston Catholic managed to score in the final 16 minutes.
Central outscored the Irish by a 30-2 margin in the second half, and closed on a 21-0 blitz after O'Dell's basket. Most of the damage in the fourth quarter came courtesy of the Maroon Knights reserves.
''I think we were a little impatient in the first half, and it looked like we were trying to score 20 points with each shot,'' Kurtz said. ''But we settled down pretty good after that.
''Colleen McCormick is one of those kids that do so much more than just score points, which is what everyone usually notices. She just goes out and does everything well - rebounds, plays defense, it is just a complete, overall game for her.
''But we played a great team game, as we have been doing. It is always nice when you can get everyone involved, it is going to make you a better team down the line and it also makes you practice harder. These are just great kids and a bunch of girls that are a joy to coach."
While McCormick led all scorers, and rebounders in the game, classmate Emily Bucon and sophomore Regan Blaha evenly divided 20 points for the winners and junior Anna Whelan paced the Irish with eight.