MARTINS FERRY - It was a most productive 24 hours for the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights.
Coach Mel Stephens' charges traveled to Martins Ferry Friday night and came away with a 57-45 victory against the Purple Riders. The hard-earned triumph came on the heels of Central's win against Magnolia the previous night in New Martinsville.
"I didn't know how much we would have in our tank after the Magnolia game," Stephens noted. "And we went through the motions in the first half. But we picked it up nicely after halftime."
Central's one-two punch of sophomore Chase Harler and senior David Park once again sparked the Knights, but they received support from many unsung teammates.
Harler worked his way for a game-high 21 points. Park scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Their supporting cast was impressive, none more than Brian Campbell. The sophomore came off the bench to score 10 points while being a defensive post presence.
Hard-working Alonzo Mann scored nine points, while guards Thomas Stanley and C.J. Burch delivered fullcourt on-ball pressure.
"Chase and David both turned in their usual solid efforts, but we had some nice contributions from several other players," Stephens said. "Ferry is a tough team to go against with their size and that zone.
"It was nice to get out of here with a win."
The Maroon Knights exited the gates quickly, receiving six Harler buckets to forge a 9-2 lead. The Purple Riders (9-8), however, used six points from sixth man Lucas Agnew to draw to within two at the break at 12-10.
Ferry, relying on scoring from 6-foot-6 senior Robert Vargo and sophomore James Edwards, moved out to a seven-point advantage with just minutes remaining in the first half at 22-15.
The Maroon Knights (14-3) failed to crack, however, and ended the period on a 7-0 run, punctuated by a 3-point goal by Boyd Bibey just before the buzzer to knot matters at 22-22 at the half. Vargo had seven points in the period for Ferry and Edwards chipped in with five.
Park began to exert his presence in the third quarter.
The McDonald's All-Star Game nominee netted eight points in the period as the Maroon Knights methodically pulled away, gaining a 39-32 advantage after three quarters.
Wheeling Central put the issue on ice by opening the final frame on a 15-5 surge, good for a 54-37 upperhand with 2:30 remaining in the contest. Campbell came up huge Central in the run, netting seven markers. Stephens emptied his bench at the 1:16 juncture, leading by a 54-41 count.
"I thought there were two critical factors in the game," Martins Ferry coach Jeff Sabatino said. "First, we let a seven-point lead slip away before halftime. Secondly, we had major foul problems. We were unable to play the way we would like.
"Give Central credit. They kept coming when they had the lead in the fourth quarter. They were relentless. They are a quality team."
Vargo led the way for the Purple Riders with 17 points and 12 boards on Senior Night. Edwards was next with 12 points, including a pair of 3s.