Park, Harler lead Central to Crown

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Like Batman and Robin in basketball jerseys, Wheeling Central’s David Park and Chase Harler arrived on the scene with huge plays late to help the Maroon Knights win the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference 2A title Saturday night at Ohio University Eastern.

And it ended up making Wellsville coach David Thompson look like the Joker.

Thompson’s statement that Wheeling Central (15-3) had won so many recent OVAC titles because his team wasn’t eligible backfired.

Harler and Park made sure of it.

Park made a key three-point play with 1:06 to play and after Camden Douglas made it a one-point game with a slam dunk, Harler made a floater with 21 seconds left to restore the lead.

“I wasn’t even sure it was going in, but it sure felt good when it did,” Harler said. “When we get in those tight situations, we (Park and Harler) know we are expected to step up. But there are a lot of good guys on this team that put us in those situations. This was a big team win for us.”

Boyd Bibey then hit a big free throw with 16 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.

After Nate Scott, who had been so key in keeping Wellsville alive in the third with four NBA-range 3-pointers (and 15 points), made a deuce with nine seconds left, Park closed it out with a pair of free throws.

Park and Harler had 19 of the Maroon Knights’ 20 fourth quarter points.

“They made their shots,” Thompson said. “We knew what they were going to do and they did it. We missed a lot of easy shots and we made some bad mistakes and it cost us. We played a good team tonight. We expected a battle and that is exactly what it was.”

The Dynamic Duo of Park and Harler had 24 points each in the Maroon Knights’ eighth straight victory.

Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens downplayed the fact that his team gained any motivation from Thompson’s words.

“He is certainly entitled to his opinion and I respect that,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said after the game. “We told the kids about it earlier in the week but I don’t think it had a great deal to do with (winning the title). We came to win a championship.”

“We knew what was said and yes, it gave us some extra motivation, but after the game started, it was just a game,” Park said. “We know they have a good team. We just made the plays we needed to at the end of the game.”

Not that it was easy against a Wellsville team that was 18-1 entering the game and had won 11 straight.

Neither team managed to lead by more than seven points, and that was Central, twice, in the third quarter, when Alonzo Manns, who added 15 points and

followed a Harler basket with two of his own, to make it 41-34 in the third.

Then Wellsville made its run, and Scott, he of the NBA range 3s, hit back-to-back 3s to give his team a 46-44 advantage.

By the time he was done, he had 15 of his game-high 25 in the quarter and Wellsville led by six before Bibey, a 3-point artist in his own right, nailed a long-range shot to make it 52-49 heading to the fourth.

From there it see-sawed, the lead changing hands four time with three ties.

“We made a couple of huge plays at the end to win the game,” Stephens said.

Jordan Sloan had 16 points for Wellsville (18-2), 14 in the first half, Seth Bradford added 12, 10 in the first half and Douglas added 11, all in the second half.

Cental faces Linsly, the last team to beat teh Knights, at 8 p.m. Monday at Linsly.