CHARLESTON - It was finished in an instant.
Well, two minutes and 24 seconds to be more precise.
That's how long it took Wheeling Central to shake off Valley-Fayette in their West Virginia Class A girls' basketball state quarterfinal game Wednesday afternoon at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.
Valley-Fayette’s Abigail Buchan (33) dribbles into the offensive zone while being guarded by Wheeling Central’s Maria Olson (2) during their Class A quarterfinal game Wednesday afternoon.
The Maroon Knights trailed 18-14 early in the second quarter, but finished on a remarkable 52-9 run to earn a berth in Friday morning's semifinal against St. Marys with a 62-27 victory
"I can't remember," an amazed Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz said when asked if his team ever went on a 52-9 run before.
"That's pretty good No."
While the spurt spanned almost three quarters, the game-changing portion came quickly to start the second half.
Wheeling Central, the No. 2 seed, scored the first 14 points of the third quarter before Valley coach Richard Cantrell tried to stop the bleeding with a 30-second timeout.
It didn't work. The Maroon Knights continued to pour it on, scoring four more points to turn a two-point halftime lead (24-22) into a cushy 42-22 advantage before Greyhounds standout Alexis Payne made a free throw with 3:01 left in the quarter.
"We just needed to wake up," Central senior Colleen McCormick said. "After we got our (first-half) reality check we knew we needed to get into our game and start going up and down the court and pressing."
The amping up of the defensive pressure keyed everything.
In the third quarter alone the Maroon Knights scored 16 points off turnovers, 16 points in the paint and 10 fast-break points.
Emily Bucon scored six of her 14 points during the span, while McCormick got four of her 14.
"The press lets us run," Bucon, who also had eight assists and eight steals, said. "I think we were playing how they wanted us to play in the first half and we just kind of took it."
Kurtz said matchups aligned themselves just right at the start of the second half, therefore making the press a viable threat.
"We pressed a little toward the end of the second (quarter)," Kurtz said. "We just wanted the right lineup in there and when we did (the press) worked very well.
"We thought if we got into an up-tempo game we could wear them down."
The Greyhounds, the No. 7 seed, entered the game with little depth. So, when starter Alaysha Taylor went down with a knee injury and Payne had to go out following a violent collision with Bucon in the third, the time was right for Central to pounce.
"I knew Payne would give us a handful on defense, so we wanted to get into an up-tempo game," Kurtz said. "We weren't very successful with that in the first half, though."
Payne, who had 28 points and almost as many rebounds in Valley's Region 3 co-final victory against Tug Valley, was a thorn in Central's side during the opening 16 minutes. Not only did she score 13 points and block five shots, her defense on McCormick was stellar.
"I just wanted to stay in front of (McCormick) and not get in foul trouble," Payne said. "It worked pretty good in the first half."
But that was it.
"We were right with them in the first half," said Cantrell, whose team reached state after winning six games last season.
"Give credit where credit is due. They have a great program having been here so many times.
"They certainly know what they're doing."
Sydney Bennington added 10 points off the bench for the Maroon Knights, eight of which came in the first half.