CRC: Central ‘Manns’ Up On St. Joseph

WHEELING – The fans that stuffed the Wheeling Jesuit’s Alma Grace McDonough Center probably expected the usual performance out of Mel Stephen’s Wheeling Central squad.

Good play down in the post by David Park and the sharp shooting perimeter threat out of Chase Harler.

While both were on display Saturday afternoon, a third factor emerged for the Maroon Knights on the second day of the 7th Annual Cancer Research Classic, one that St. Joseph Prep coach William ”Speedy” Morris never saw coming.

His name is Alonzo Manns.

The Central senior shot 58 percent as he totaled 21 points to go along with nine rebound as the Maroon Knights advanced to 5-0 on the season with a 58-45 victory against the Hawks of Philadelphia.

”I don’t think he had 21 points all season,” Morris said. ”He’s a good kid. We did a terrible job inside. We had no help. (Central) finally recognized it and starting throw it inside. We had no help on the strong side. And we work on that. It didn’t look like we work on that, but we do.”

According to Manns, a lot the credit goes to his teammates for him earning game MVP honors.

”If it wasn’t for Chase, David and Thomas (Stanley) finding me in the hole, I wouldn’t have scored that much,” the 6-foot-2 Manns said of his career high in points.

”I’m a true post player, that’s why I just stay down there. I know I can post my guy up and score on him. I have that will to score and I got it done (Saturday).”

When it matter most, too.

St. Joseph Prep (9-1) jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead, but back-to-back layups by Manns tied the game and sparked an 8-0 run that put Central ahead 11-7 early in the second.

Then, in the third with the scored tied at 25, Manns again hit consecutive buckets that jump started a 9-0 spurt from which the Hawks never recovered.

”Offensively, it was Alonzo, obviously,” Stephens said. ”We were able to get the ball in to him. That half-court set (St. Joseph was) running, we were able to get some real nice passes from Thomas and Chase, to get the ball inside for him to be able to score. There were a couple times we got him out in transition where he beat their big guys down the floor and we got the ball to him for some easy chances. Those were key.

”Once we got the lead, we forced them out of what they liked to do. They started shooting some longer shots and we were able to rebound and get chances at the other end.”

While Manns was no doubt the player of the game, the highlight of the day came from Harler with 4:50 to play in the fourth.

After Park collected a defensive rebound, one of his game-high 11, he found a breaking Harler down the right side of the court and lobbed a half court pass to the sophomore that was nearly intercepted by a Hawks player. Harler, though, was quick enough to reach the ball and slammed it home as he was fouled and the audience erupted.

He then hit the free throw to give Central its largest lead at 47-35.

”Pretty impressive,” Stephens said of the 6-3 Harler’s jam. ”These guys do a lot of them in practice, but getting it in a game situation, that’s pretty special.”

Harler finished with 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and was 5 of 5 from the foul line. Park finished with a double-double as he had 12 points to go with his 11 boards.

As a team, the Knights shot nearly 89 percent from the line and were 50 percent from the floor in the second half.

”Obviously, it was a big game for us,” Stephens said. ”You have a team coming into town that’s undefeated from a tough catholic league. We played them a few times in the past and we know what kinda program Speedy has. It gives us a measuring stick to see where we are outside of the area. I thought the kids were really focused, especially defensively.”

Junior Chris Clover led the Hawks with a game-high 23 points, 16 of which came in the second half. As a team, they shot 29 percent (15 of 51).

”I thought defensively we did OK, but offensively, we stunk,” Morris said. ”We couldn’t make a shot. But that’s to Central’s credit. I like that team a lot.”