Girls’ Basketball: Seniors Decide Things for Central, 56-54

WHEELING – It was almost like a dream ending to Senior Night for Delaney Denniston.

When Denniston hit a 16-foot jumper to give her team a 46-45 lead with 6.7 seconds left, it looked like a storybook ending.

She’ll happily settle for the happy ending that actually happened.

Denniston had a key steal in overtime and Wheeling Central, despite 26 turnovers, beat visiting Charleston Catholic 56-54 on Friday night at the Central gymnasium.

“It would have been a good story to tell,” Denniston said. “I’m just glad we got the win. We didn’t play our best but we fought and came out with the win. That was the important thing.”

Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz knew it was Senior Night.

When push came to shove, some of it literally and out of necessity, he let his seniors decide the game.

Starter Regan Blaha and Lindsey Baker had fouled out of the game in regulation. Another starter, Cate Calissie, went out of the game with a bloody nose.

“I just decided late in the fourth and in overtime, you know what, it’s Senior Night, let’s let the seniors decide it,” Kurtz said.

So along with starting seniors Mackenzie Michaels and Ashton Cross, Kurtz went with Denniston and Maria Olson on the floor.

It paid off.

Not only did Denniston hit the shot that gave Central its first lead of the second half, she also had the key steal in overtime and got the ball to Olson, who made one of two free throws to make it 56-54.

Charleston Catholic had a last-gasp effort, but Anna Whelan, who had hit the game-tying free throw with 2.7 seconds left in regulation, had her shot bounce off the bottom of the iron and drop away harmlessly.

“Delaney is one of our best shooters in practice,” Kurtz said. “I wasn’t surprised she made that shot. Olson gets after it when she is on the floor, Cross is as tough as nails and when you factor in all that Mackenzie Michaels does for this team, who is better prepared to handle that situation? They did a great job.”

In overtime, Sydney Bennington hit a big 3-pointer to give the Maroon Knights a lead and Michaels had three points and Olson two free throws. It was the difference.

Michaels had 16 to lead Central, which had beaten Charleston Catholic last week in Charleston. Blaha added 14.

“We had opportunities down the stretch, we just didn’t take advantage,” Charleston Catholic coach Zach Bogan said. “They are a good team, and they are hard to beat, especially here. We made a number of costly mistakes.”

Vida Imani and Hannah Gallian led the Irish with 16 points each.