WHEELING - Ecouraged by a pregame pep talk from former Wheeling Central all-state player and head coach Dave Wojcick, the Maroon Knights got off the deck and ended a four-game losing streak with a payback, 58-42 victory against Conotton Valley on Friday night.
Wojcik, an assistant coach at Boise State, is back home this weekend to join in a celebration of the 2003 Wheeling Central West Virginia Class A state championship team that he coached. Coaches and players from that title-winning club will be honored during today's Maroon Knights' home contest against Morgantown Trinity. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m.
''Woj went down and talked to both the jayvee and varsity before the game and I thought that inspired them a little bit,'' Central coach Mel Stephens said.
Guarded by Conotton Valley’s Keaton Carrothers (23), Wheeling Central’s Justin Hammers (3) looks to pass to an open teammate during Friday night’s game.
In avenging a 60-52 loss last month against the Rockets (9-4), the Maroon Knights picked up their third victory against seven defeats.
''I've been telling our kids that we have been making progress and that we were heading in the right direction,'' Stephens said. ''I really felt they deserved to win a game. They came out and basically took it.''
Leading the Maroon Knights was David Park with 23 points and 15 rebounds, seven of his retrieved missed shots coming in the fourth quarter.
Providing scoring support against the Rockets were freshman point guard Chase Harler with 13 points and six rebounds along with Brandon Wallace, who had 12 points and seven boards. Also contributing off the bench were Alonzo Manns with eight points and Thomas Stanley. Although he had just one field goal and two points, Stanley's bucket came during the third quarter when the smallest player on the floor also had two steals and a couple of big assists during a 12-0 run when the Maroon Knights extended the lead out to 16 points.
Conotton Valley's leading scorer, 6-foot-7 senior Brandon Bailey, didn't start because of health issues that saw him have to sit out the previous contest. However, one he stepped out on the floor he proved to be very difficult for the Maroon Knights to handle inside as he went on to score 17 points and collect nine rebounds.
''Bailey hasn't practiced for a week, so some of that might have gotten us out of sync,'' Rockets coach Mike Fierbaugh pointed out. ''When he catches it in the post he is hard to stop but he lost the handle of the basketball several times and that could have been easy opportunities to score.''
Bailey scored seven of his points in the opening quarter as the Rockets jumped in front 15-8 and they extended the lead to nine when Brandon Robin opened the second round with a rebound basket.
After Harler's basket cut the deficit to 17-10, the Maroon Knights extended their man-to-man defense full court and it had a positive effect. Conotton Valley had to extended itself to get the ball past midcourt and it had even more trouble getting any open room to shoot.
Park connected on a triple that was followd by transition hoops from Harler and Wallace as the Maroon Knights grabbed the lead at 18-17. They didn't trail the rest of the way. After the Rockets pulled within three points on two free throws by Keaton Carrothers, Park's basket off the glass sent Central into the locker room in front 26-21.