WHEELING - On paper, the second Upper Ohio Valley Basketball Tournament girls' semifinal pitting Wheeling Central and Bishop Donahue had all the makings of an old-fashioned blowout.
The Maroon Knights entered play at Wheeling Jesuit's McDonough Center on Friday night with one loss. The Bishops, meanwhile, boasted one victory.
Wheeling Central came away with a 53-39 triumph. But it wasn't a blowout. In fact, until a 12-1 run by the Maroon Knights late in the third quarter it was a tight game.
Wheeling Central’s Emily Bucon eyes a shot in front of Bishop Donahue’s Renae Kudla.
''Bishop Donahue did what they needed to do to get it to the pace they wanted,'' Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz said.
''But our movement of the ball and our energy got better, and I think we were able to wear them down.''
Bishop Donahue coach Don Gillis agreed.
''We didn't want them to pound the ball inside to (Colleen) McCormick and their other girls, and I think in the first half it worked,'' he said. ''But the problem was they were getting rebounds and putting the ball back up.''
That's true. But the shots weren't falling.
After building a 15-6 lead after the first quarter, the Maroon Knights went cold from the floor (4 of 18) in the second, including an 0-for-8 drought to end the half.
That opened the door for the Bishops, who closed to within 22-16 on a Kelsey Schau layup and trailed by eight at halftime.
''I thought they played a great first half,'' Kurtz said of the Bishops. ''They made some shots, played aggressive on defense and took away some of the things we like to do. I'll give them credit for that.
''We were a little lethargic, but their defense had a lot to do with that.''
Emily Bucon scored 14 points in the first half for Central (8-1), but no one else had even half that.
That changed quickly in the third quarter.
McCormick, who surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career, made a layup to start the period. She scored two more times as Central built a 38-20 advantage. Bucon's jumper in the lane capped the surge.
''We knew we had to do a better job of moving the ball to get it in to her,'' Kurtz said of McCormick who double- and triple-teammed most of the night.
''We came out with a little more enthusiasm and played better defense. They only had six points in the third quarter.
''Our defense leads to offense and when we do that we're a pretty good team.''
Bucon finished with 22 points, the only player scoring in double-figures for either team. Selena Ghaphery paced the Bishops (1-7) with nine.