Maroon Knights Solid in Debut


For the Intelligencer

SHADYSIDE – It was easy to see Wheeling Central was chomping at the bit to get on the floor for its first game.

Whether it was David Park’s constant clapping during warmups or the 13-2 run on which the Knights began the game against Shadyside, Central was focused and ready.

For a while, it appeared as if that emotion was going to be plenty to get the job done, but the scrappy and youthful Tigers had other ideas thanks to a strong middle two quarters.

But, it’s a four-quarter game and Central proved to be too much over the course of 32 minutes as its impressive trio of Park, sophomore Chase Harler and sixth man John Burkhalter scored in a myriad of ways during the Knights’ 82-69 victory against the Tigers (2-2).

“We’ve been practicing against each other for a month, so we were getting kind of tired of that and it was nice to go against someone different,” Central coach Mel Stephens said. “I thought Shadyside did a really nice job because every time we made a mistake, defensively, they were able to knock down some big shots.”

In the middle two quarters, Shadyside got all sorts of open looks and multiple players made the Knights pay on occassions.

Shadyside trailed by as many as 12 in the second quarter, but got within two, 40-38, at halftime thanks to a 28-point outburst. John Michael Schuetz and Zach Frizzi had the hot hands, scoring nine and seven, respectively.

“We had a bad start and a bad finish, but in the middle I thought we played pretty well,” Shadyside coach Ed Andes said. “We went after them for 32 minutes. When you’re playing a good offensive team, you just have to keep going and hope your shots go in. For a while they did for us, but late, they didn’t.”

While Shadyside caught fire, it still had no answer for the Knights’ trio. Park demonstrated his all-around game by scoring at the rim and from behind the 3-point line. Burkhalter also had a strong quarter.

Alonzo Manns also got going in the second, scoring six of his eight points.

“We sent them to the line a lot, which enabled them to keep it close,” Stephens said. “Part of it, I am chalking up to it being our first game, but there are a lot of things we can do a little bit better. I think we can be a good defensive team, but Shadyside creates some problems for you because they’ve usually got five guys (on the floor) who can all shoot the 3.”

That’s exactly what the Tigers did in the third quarter when they built a lead to as many as five. The Tigers scored 21 points without a two-point goal. They had five 3-pointers and were a sharp 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.

However, each time the Tigers got a run going, either Harler or Burkhalter had an answer.

”We knew they’d have some other guys step up to go along with Park and Harler, but we just didn’t know who it would be,” Andes said. “Going into the game, we knew we have to really guard two (guys), but they got a third guy going.”

In the fourth, Shadyside answered an early Central spurt with 7-0 burst of its own to grab a 66-64 lead.

Joe John knotted the game and a conventional three-point play from Thomas Stanley put the Knights on top for good. After the Tigers closed to within one at 69-68, Central proceeded to score 13 of the game’s final 14 points.

“We went with a little bit different lineup in the second half to help us defend their shooters, but defensively, we can’t give up that many points,” Stephens said. “I thought Chase, David and John really shot the ball well, but if that doesn’t happen, especially tonight, we’re in trouble.”

Despite scoring just five in the second half, Park finished with 21 points. He also had 11 boards and blocked two shots. Burkhalter had 21 and Harler, who left the game for a few minutes in the fourth with an ankle injury, finished with 20.

Shadyside was led by Schuetz, who finished with 25. Frizzi added 18 and Shane Johnson had a quiet 11 before fouling out.

The Knights held a commanding 36-18 on the glass. The Tigers were charted for just seven turnovers, which was six fewer than the winners.