Boys’ Basketball: Maroon Knights Avenge Tournament Loss

WHEELING – David Park’s cell phone didn’t stop buzzing the last couple days.

He was a popular man, especially to his former Wheeling Central teammates, who implored the senior to make things right against Charleston Catholic, the team that had knocked them out of the state tournament and a berth in the Class A state championship game less than a year earlier.

He felt obligated to respond.

Not necessarily by text, though.

Park had 13 points and 12 rebounds to help heal some of the wounds, as the Maroon Knights knocked off the Irish 64-52 Friday night at the Central gymnasium.

“All those seniors were sending me messages, saying for us to beat them and get a little revenge for them,” Park said. “It was something I took to heart. I mean, when you get knocked out of a shot at playing for the state championship, that hurts. We had a chance to get a big win and it was something that was on our minds for a long time. As soon as we beat Parkersburg Catholic (earlier in the week), that was at the top of our minds. We wanted this one bad. It was a big win against a very good team.”

It is also one that could, by season’s end, play a big part in where teams are seeded.

“It’s not something that I think about, but yes, we mentioned that to the kids,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “They’ve gotten us a few times, and really, it has developed into a pretty good rivalry for two teams that are so far apart.”

It played out that way for the most part, as the teams took turns controlling the tempo and the scoreboard in the first half.

The Maroon Knights took a five-point lead at the break when designated shooter Boyd Bibey came off the bench to hit two big 3s.

“He’s done that for us all season,” Stephens said. “Everybody has confidence that he is going to come in and hit those shots. If David (Park) or Chase (Harler) are driving they know they can kick it back to Boyd and he is going to knock those shots down.”

He knocked down two more key 3s in the second half, one in the third quarter and one in the fourth, both of which extinguished short runs by the Irish, who were fighting to stay in the game.

“Bibey was in our scouting report and his role was as a designated shooter, so it wasn’t a surprise to us,” Charleston Catholic coach Bill McClanahan said. “It didn’t catch us off guard; we just didn’t get out on him and it hurt us.”

The Maroon Knights featured a balanced scoring attack, and Charleston Catholic was never able to get over the hump.

Harler led the way with 16 points, seven rebounds and one key assist, Alonzo Manns added 14, including 14 in the first quarter, and Bibey added 12.

Harler led a break late in the game and fired a beautiful cross-court pass to Park, posted under the basket, for an easy deuce and the accompanying free throw that completed a three-point play and, for all intents and purposes, the game.

Park shot a smile to his teammate, who had retreated to the midcourt line, and pointed.

“Heck of a pass,” Park said. “We felt like we had the game at that point, but you never want to stop defending because they are a good team,” Park said.

The Maroon Knight leaders weren’t the only ones contributing at crunch time, however.

Brian Campbell came off the bench to hot a pair of big baskets, including one on a putback in the third and another floater late in the game.

“I’m proud of his effort,” Stephens said. “That putback of his own miss was big earlier in the game because they were making a run. And that last one was one of those where you say, ‘What are you doing?’ and it falls. That was big, too.”

Point guard Thomas Stanley was 4 of 5 at the free throw line late in the game.

It was the second straight loss for the former No. 1 team in Class A. The Irish lost to Poca, a ranked Class AA team earlier this week.

“We are still developing as a team and that was evidenced tonight by the fact that we couldn’t get the breaks we needed,” McClanahan said. “Little things that seem to go your way when you are winning and don’t go your way when you are struggling. That’s where we are right now.”

Central (10-3) shut down the Irish’s best shooter, Garrett McCarty, holding him to seven points, six of those off two 3s in the first quarter.

“We knew he could shoot the ball, and our plan was to try and limit either him or (Nick) George if we could,” Park said. “I thought Thomas (Stanley), C.J. (Burch) and Jonathan (Droginske) did a great job of locking him down.”

“Missing his offensive output was important tonight,” McClanahan said. “Tonight was a bad night for Garrett. You stay around or play this game long enough and you are going to be nights where it just doesn’t fall and tonight was a bad night for Garrett.”

George led the Irish with 19.

Central has little time to relish the victory, visiting Madonna tonight for a key sectional matchup.