WHEELING - You had to figure Colleen McCormick and Wheeling Central would rebound from a loss to Shadyside in last week's OVAC Class 2A Championship game.
After all, nobody rebounds better than Colleen McCormick.
McCormick scored 20 points and pulled down her 1,000th career rebound along the way as the Maroon Knights beat Wheeling Park, 68-63, to salvage a split in the season series Wednesday night at Central's gym.
Wheeling Central’s Colleen McCormick (3) has a shot blocked by Wheeling Park’s Kendra Johnson (35) and is guarded by Park’s Caitlyn O’Neal (12).
While an individual accomplishment won't overshadow a team one - and it didn't for McCormick - Knights coach Penn Kurtz was a little beside himself in trying to digest this one in particular.
''I've never had anybody do that in the 27 years I've been here,'' he said.
Few coaches have.
''It's just hard work for four straight years, then just working with my teammates,'' McCormick said. ''It's all determination. Just get low, box out, and grab the ball.''
Earlier this season, McCormick scored her 1,000th point, the kind of symmetry few Ohio Valley basketball players have managed through the years. Bellaire's Nate Davis was the last to do it.
Wheeling Park offered plenty of opportunities for McCormick rebounds with a poor shooting night from everywhere, but it was a dismal 13 of 27 performance at the free-throw line that was haunting Patriots coach Dee Davis.
''We lose 14 easy buckets and lose by five,'' Davis said. ''It's just a lack of focus.
''I liked the way we attacked. I liked our defense. We didn't finish as much as we should have. We missed a lot of layups- especially at the beginning of the game. It's little things like that. Central's a good team, don't get me wrong. But I think we beat ourselves.''
The Patriots, who trailed for a large portion of the game, held a one-point lead going into halftime, taking advantage of the foul trouble that dogged Maroon Knights co-star Emily Bucon.
''They missed a lot early on (Park was 5 of 16 from the line the first half), which is uncharacteristic for them,'' Kurtz said. ''It kind of surprised me because we could have been down a lot.
''First half, we were throwing the ball all over the court. We settled down. That was the difference.''
With Bucon back in the fray, Central (18-4) enjoyed runs of 13-5 and 13-4 in the second half, each time pushing a lead to 10, mostly because it made the freebies. The Maroon Knights hit on 20 of 26 at the line, with Bucon draining 13 of 14.
''Foul shots win games,'' McCormick said. ''Emily hit a lot of big free throws for us.''
With Haley Robb scoring 26 points and sometimes making shots from the Convenient parking lot down the street, Park continually battled back. The Patriots got to within one at 50-49 with 5:46 to play on a layin by Caitlyn O'Neal before Central, and specifically Bucon, took things the other way. She had 10 of her 21 points in the last eight minutes.
Central's contributions came from beyond the Big Two, though. Regan Blaha come of the bench to score 13 points, Madison Basinger picked up some slack inside before she hit foul trouble of her own, and Sydney Bennington hit a key shot midway through the second quarter.
Emily Puskarich added 15 for the Patriots.