WHEELING - Along with her teammates, junior Regan Blaha struggled mightily from the floor for Wheeling Central during the first half of Saturday night's girls Undo's Upper Ohio Valley Basketball Tournament championship game against sectional rival Madonna.
However, the second half was a totally different story as Blaha took control, scoring 12 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, and helped direct the Maroon Knights to another late December tournament title.
Trailing by four at the break, Wheeling Central scored the initial 15 points of the third quarter, weathered another storm, and pulled away late to capture a 47-35 triumph against the Blue Dons at Wheeling Jesuit University's Alma Grace McDonough Center.
Madonna’s Isabella Rosso recovers a rebound in front of Wheeling Central’s Lindsey Baker (12), and Maria Olson, right, during their game Saturday.
Coach Don Ogden's Madonna squad led 9-7 after the first quarter and 20-16 at the half, even though the Blue Dons had turned the ball over 13 times. Central was unable to capitalize, hitting just 7 of 35 shots during the first 16 minutes of play.
It got even sloppier for Madonna in the third quarter, as it turned the ball over five times in the first minute as the Maroon Knights rattled off nine unanswered points and took a 25-20 advantage.
Things only got worse for the Dons, who eventually trailed 31-20 when the blast was over. Not only did they lose the ball eight times in that stretch, they also lost sophomore Monica Bragg to an injury at the 6:19 mark.
Ogden's crew never gave up, dropping in the final nine points of the and cutting the deficit to 31-29 after three quarters. It was still a 39-35 Knights' lead at 2:34, however, Central tallied the final eight points of the contest.
"We missed some point-blank shots in the first half and we talked about finishing in the locker room," Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz said. "For some reason we have had a bad habit of creating turnovers but not taking advantage of them.
"I thought we did a great job in the third quarter and was very happy with what our press accomplished. But again, we fell asleep a little bit and let them back in and then finished strong."
Blaha capped an outstanding game with 20 points and 12 rebounds, missing only two shots in the second half, while Lindsey Baker and Mackenzi Michaels finished with six apiece. Junior Rebecca Holt paced the Blue Dons with 13.
"Regan (Blaha) has a second gear and when she gets into it good things normally happen," Kurtz said. "She does a lot of things and is really sneaky quick hitting the boards and getting put-backs.
"Our goal was to get two wins this weekend, not only to win the tournament, but to beat a pair of sectional rivals, and we did that. But at the same time, I know we can play better than we did."