WHEELING - Penn Kurtz and the Wheeling Central girls' basketball team now have a decades worth of Upper Ohio Valley Tournament championships under their belt as the Maroon Knights thumped Madonna, 55-22, Saturday evening to make it 10 in a row.
"Every group makes it a different experience," Kurtz, who won his first title in 2003, said. "This is a great group of young ladies to coach. They're fun to be around. They work really well as a team. Everyone has their own personalities."
Central (9-1) advanced to the championship game with a 53-39 victory against Bishop Donahue on Friday night, but the final score didn't reveal how close the contest really was, something Kurtz wanted to avoid Saturday at Wheeling Jesuits' McDonough Center.
Wheeling Central’s Madison Basinger (24) controls the ball Saturday night as Madonna’s Monica Bragg looks on.
Photo by Tony Viola
"We wanted to get off to a good start," he said. "We felt like we could pressure their guards, force some turnovers, get some easy baskets in transition, and not let them set up in their half-court defense. I thought we were pretty successful with that."
The Knights jumped out to a 6-0 lead, stretched that margin to 10 before the end of the first period and the rout was on.
A Delaney Denniston 3-pointer made it 19-4 with a little more than three minutes left in the first half as the Blue Dons (3-6) trailed 25-6 heading into halftime.
Madonna seemed to come out of the locker room with a little momentum as Nicolette Sellitti hit a 3 on the first possession of the second half, but it was too little too late as Wheeling Central closed out the period with an 18-8 run.
"We played a little bit better as a team," Kurtz said. "Team defense, I thought, was really well done in the first half. And on offense, once again they're trying to take away Emily (Bucon) and Colleen (McCormick), which is something we'll see every time we play, so the other players had to step up."
Denniston came off the bench to lead the Knights with 14 points while McCormick and Madison Basinger finished with 11 points each.
Bucon chipped in nine as all four girls were named to the Undo's All-Tournament team.
Despite the team being on an eight-game win streak, however, Kurtz thinks he can get even more out of his squad.
"Actually, we'd like to be playing a little bit better. It's hard when you're 9-1 to want to play better, but that's our goal every night. Just get a little bit better at everything we do, so by the end of the year, we'll be playing our very best."
Sellitti was the lone Blue Don to make the All-Tournament roster as she ended her night with three points.
Freshman Isabella Rosso led Madonna with seven points while Amy Davis contributed six.
The consolation contest between the Bishops and Conotton Valley was not played due to weather.