Boys’ Basketball: Whg. Central Wins Another Nail-Biter

WHEELING – One of these days, maybe Wheeling Central will get a snoozer.

If the results stay the same though, Mel Stephens won’t mind the nail biters.

Sophomore Chase Harler scored 23 points and David Park added 16 as the Maroon Knights knocked off Martins Ferry Monday at Wheeling Central, 65-62.

“We don’t make anything easy,” a relieved Stephens said. “It’s funny. We spent a month playing against each other, just waiting for a chance to play somebody else. Now we’ve played three games in four days. I think we’ll enjoy coming in tomorrow and just going against each other for a change. It’s been a tough stretch.”

The Maroon Knights (4-0) went down to the wire to beat Bishop Donahue Friday, went to overtime to beat Steubenville Catholic on Saturday and win the Undo’s Tournament championship, and then there was Monday.

Despite trailing by 11 midway through the fourth quarter, the Purple Riders weren’t going to go away without a fight, led by senior big man Robert Vargo, a 6-foot-9 physical presence in the paint.

Down 56-45, Vargo started a 7-0 run with a three-point play, his fourth of the game, and Arjay Burress had back-to-back baskets, the second off a steal, to make it 56-52.

From there, the race to the finish was on,

Martins Ferry, relentless in its pressure late in the game, forced another turnover and Vargo got a putback off a missed 3 to cut the lead to 63-62 with 6.4 seconds left.

Park, who had a quite game based on his first three outtings, was fouled with 5.6 seconds left. He calmly made both free throws to stretch the lead to three again.

Jake Barritt had a good look at a 3 from 23 feet at the buzzer but it bounced harmlessly off the backboard to allow the Knights to escape.

Vargo finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds, but he had to work for it.

“I thought Alonzo (Manns) did a great job on him,” Stephens said. “He had some numbers but Alonzo made him work for everything he got. He’s given up some size and some weight, going against (Bishop Donahue’s Chaice) Truex Friday and now Vargo. He battled, though. We wanted to make him work and Alonzo made him work.”

Manns also contributed eight points, including two big baskets in the fourth quarter.

In a game where down the stretch, every basket was huge.

So was Central taking charge out of halftime, opening up a lead thanks to a 3 to start the half by Park and a pair from Boyd Bibey Jr.

“We talked about being a little more aggressive in the second half,” Stephens said. “We did that. We had a lot of success driving to the basket (in the second half). We know David and Chase (Harler) are going to get their points. But if we can get four or five other guys scoring six to eight points, that’s another 30. We like our chances with those numbers.”

Harler came alive in the second half, scoring 18 of his 23.

The distribution from there was in the area Stephens was looking for, with Manns’ eight and John Burkhalter and Bibey with six each.

Burress added 10 points for Martins Ferry (3-4).

Central will be off until Saturday when it faces St. Joe’s Academy out of Philadelphia in the CRC Tournament at Wheeling Jesuit.