Knights Play Hard, Come Up Short

WHEELING – Style points are something you don’t get very often from the Wheeling Central boys’ basketball team.

However, when it comes to playing with grit, hustle and heart, the Maroon Knights don’t take a back seat to anyone.

Matched up Saturday night against a deeper, stronger and more talented Philadelphia St. Joseph’s Prep in the final game of the Wheeling Hospital Cancer Research Classic, Coach Mel Stephens’ scrappers refused to let the Hawks put them away until the very end.

Finally, six straight free throws cashed during the closing 25 seconds provided the impetus for a hard-earned 52-47 St. Joseph’s victory at Wheeling Jesuit University’s Alma Grace McDonough Center.

”Mel does a terrific job with those kids,” said the veteran Speedy Morris, coach of the Hawks. ”We got outcoached and we definitely got outplayed. They are not as good and they are not as talented as we are, but they played very well together.

”I was disappointed with our lack of effort, Rebounding and defense are all about commitment. You have to want to do them. I don’t think we did either very well.”

Every time the Hawks seemed about to take control, Wheeling Central’s Joel Jarrett seemed to step up bury a 3-pointer to bring the Knights back into it. He had four in the game and nearly every one came at a critical moment to keep his team in contact with thevisitors.

After trailing by 8-7 after the first quarter and leaving the court in a 19-19 tie at halftime, St. Joseph’s finally appeared to be gaining some breathing room late in the third quarter when its highly regarded sophomore guard Myles Overton scored six quick points for a 34-26 lead, the Hawks’ biggest at that juncture.

Jarrett’s sparkling night that saw him miss just one 3-point attempt, stuck one in from long range, followed by a Marcus Clifford trey from the right wing to pull the Knights within 34-32 entering the final 8 minutes.

Lee Peluchette’s pull-up jumper from the baseline tied it for final time at outset of the fourth quarter. However, Steven Vasturia’s conventional three-point play, followed by Overton’s square-up jumper from 15 feet and Gene Williams’ entry pass to Overton for another basket gave St. Joe a 41-34 advantage.

Jarrett, who didn’t start but led the Maroon Knights in scoring with 14 points, then traded triples with Vasturia. Brandon Ingram’s quick hands on defense keyed a 5-0 run that pulled Central to within 44-42 with 2:13 remaining. He picked off a St. Joe pass and turned it into two points with an underhanded layup and then hit a another basket and free throw that forced a timeout by the frustrated Morris.

Central’s opportunity to get closer or perhaps tie the game was ruined when Overton rebounded a teammate’s missed shot and hit the stickback. After a Maroon Knights’ miss, Ingram knocked the ball loose at midcourt and sailed in for a layup that trimmed the deficit to 46-44 with 55 seconds remaining.

The foul situation then proved to be a disadvantage to Central’s comeback hopes. Stephens’ club had just three team fouls at this point and had to commit four quick ones to finally put the Hawks at line.

Mike Fee, on the free-throw stripe for the first time, dropped in a pair with 25 seconds left extending the lead back to four points. After Ingram’s triple was off the mark, Vascura was fouled pulling down the rebound and hit both shots for a 50-44 advantage. Fee then stepped in and stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and also went 2-for-2 at the line with 5 seconds remaining.

Jarrett drained another long-distance trey to close the scoring.

”I’m really proud of our kids,” Stephens said. ”They fight to the end no matter who we are playing. This was a good team and we went toe-to-toe with them.

”Basically they made a couple more shots and a couple more plays than we did.”.

Overton led the Hawks in scoring with 22 points, 16 of which came in the second half.

Also in double figures for St. Joe was Vasturia with 15 points, while Fee finished with nine.

Along with Jarrett’s 14 points, the Maroon Knights also got 12 from Ingram and 10 by Shane Greskevitch.

St. Andrew’s 49, Dematha 46

WHEELING – Michael Carter-Willis scored 26 points, had six rebounds and three assists, leading St. Andrew’s to a victory against Dematha. Beejay Anya led the Stags with 15 points, and eight rebounds.

Northland 63, Rice 54

WHEELING – Trey Burke pumped in 22 points to lead three players in double figures while handing out three assists, helping to life Northland past Rice. Paving the way for Rice was Emmanuel Andujar with 13 points and four assists.

Gonzaga 72, Christ The King 57

WHEELING – Nate Britt scored 20 points and had five assists to lead Gonzaga to a rout of Christ The King.

Mount Vernon 75

Neumann-Goretti 6

WHEELING – West Virginia University recruit Jabarie Hinds had 25 points to go along with three assists as Mount Vernon escaped Neumann-Goretti.

Jarrel Martin produced 12 points and points and 13 rebounds for the Knights.

Leading the way for the Saints was Lamin Fulton (17 points) and Derrick Stewart (15). John Davis added 12 and Bill Shank chipped in 11.