An All-Around Great ‘Knight’

CHARLESTON – Survive and advance.

Class A top seed Wheeling Central did just that, barely, getting two free throws apiece from the least likely of suspects to edge No. 8 seed Parkersburg Catholic, 59-57, in overtime Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the West Virginia state high school boys’ basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.

This time, Goliath withstood David’s best shot to advance to the semifinals. Central will take on Clay-Battelle, whiched edged Greater Beckley Christian, at 7:15 tonight.

An eighth seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed since the tournament went to the seeding process. It nearly did Thursday.

In a game that featured nine ties and eight lead changes, and one that Central never led by more than two, was won at the foul line by Brian Campbell and Thomas Stanley in the final 26.6 seconds. Included in that was a key steal by Chase Harler, who got the ball to Stanley before he was nearly tackled in front of the Maroon Knights bench.

Campbell tied the game at 57-57 with 26.6 seconds left.

“You know I have a lot of confidence in ‘Soup,’ but I honestly am not even sure he knows what he did,” a relieved Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “He’s been in that position before. He hit a couple key ones at (Martins) Ferry that helped us win that game. He is probably a 60-percent shooter, probably, so … He really came through.”

He wasn’t the only one

Harler, who surpassed 1,000 career points as just a sophomore, came up with a huge steal and immediately got the ball to Stanley.

“The same thing had happened earlier,” Harler said. “I saw my man break open, but I made a hustle play and got it to Thomas. I thought I threw it away for a minute but fortunately Thomas was able to catch it.”

Parkersburg Catholic had a chance to tie it or win it, but was unable to get a decent look and Jake Ullman’s long 3-point shot wasn’t even close.

“I take the blame for what happened at the end,” Parkersburg Catholic coach Rob Strcula said. “I did a poor job with my timeouts and with clock management. We had been pretty successful running off screens earlier in the game but they obviously did a better job defending it on that last possession.”

Before that it was mass chaos at its finest, as Wheeling Central rallied from 11 down in the second quarter and from five down twice in the fourth.

After rallying from five down once to take a 42-41 lead on a pair of Harler free throws, the Crusaders bounced back with six straight points, starting on a drive by Ullman, then a pair of free throws each from Payton Sturm and Ullman.

The Maroon Knights got a break when, after a missed free throw, the Crusaders appeared to be headed for a run out until David Park came out of nowhere to block the shot.

Sturn also missed to free throws on the next possession, essentially wiping out pair of golden opportunities to score and seal the game.

Boyd Bibey started the comeback with a 3-pointer.

Park and Harler made a pair of free throws around two by Ullman setting up the final 22.4 of regulation.

After a pair of misses by Ullman, the Maroon Knights had the ball with less than 11 seconds to play. After a timeout, Harler got the ball in the backcourt, drove to the basket and dished it underneath to Manns whose shot sent the game to overtime.

“It’s a scary moment but I didn’t want to let these guys down so I went up strong and scored it,” Manns said. “I knew if I missed it these guys would be mad at me.”

“I think we did (survive),” Stephens said. “I’m not sure the best team won, but I will say this about our kids: they found a way to get the job done. I’m thrilled to be able to move on right now.”

“I do (feel like we gave one away),” Strcula, a former star for the Crusaders said. “You have to give Central a lot of credit but we had so many key turnovers and missed free throws and (the loss) hurts for that.”

Wheeling Central (23-3) has won 15 in a row.

Harler led the Maroon Knights with 18 points and eight rebounds. Park had 11 and eight boards and Manns had 10 points, making all five of the field goals he attempted.

“He played a great game,” Stephens said. “He didn’t get a lot of touches but when he did he made them count.”

Ullman led all scorers with 21 points, Joe Padden added 15 and Sturm 11.