Crusaders No Match For Knights

Photo by Matt Peaslee Steubenville Catholic’s Dom Argetine (33) and Wheeling Central’s John Burkhalter battle for a loose ball.

STEUBENVILLE — Even though this is his first year as head coach of the Steubenville Catholic boys’ basketball team, Chris Tarquinio has first-hand experience seeing Wheeling Central in action.

In recent years, he has officiated basketball games in the valley and he’s become accustomed to the physical, high-scoring ability of the Maroon Knights.

Tuesday was no different.

Mel Stephens’ squad left the Mickey Barber Gymnasium with a 77-41 victory over Tarquinio’s Crusaders.

“That’s a very good team,” Tarquinio said. “That’s a state-contender every year in West Virginia. Mel does a great job with the program. I’ve seen them play a lot and they always have a quality team. They know how to get after it and we didn’t handle the pressure as well as we should have. We were prepared for it, but they just forced us into making mistakes.

“We got down early, as it seems we have all season. For some reason we haven’t played the way we should early on, and that’s something I need to figure out a solution for. That’s on me. The kids fought back, but we lost our composure, and from there it snowballed. They hit their shots, but we didn’t box out and we didn’t play defense.”

Wheeling Central led, 24-11, after the first quarter but Steubenville Catholic managed to cut the deficit to 28-21 midway through the second.

By halftime, though, after three dunks from Brent Price, the Maroon Knights led, 43-24.

“That’s how you always draw it up,” Stephens said. “I thought we played with a lot more energy. They were a little shorthanded, but we came out with the right kind of energy and style that we needed to win this game. I thought we were pretty solid from start to finish. We played hard and turned them over to make for some easy buckets in transition. We were able to run a few sets and capitalize on our scoring chances.”

Wheeling Central (8-1) outscored the Crusaders (6-4), 24-7, in the third quarter and converted on 10 of 12 offensive possessions in the period. John Burkhalter led all scorers with 20 points, while Price finished with 18. Trey Mueller knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.

“Anytime things are going well, your confidence goes up,” Stephens said. “We were able to play looser and that made the game play into our hands even better. We’ve had games where we’ve looked tight, and we’ve been down, and our confidence was shaken. When that happens, you play sloppy and press a little bit.

“When you have a bigger lead you can relax a little bit because every possession is not the end of the world.”

For Steubenville Catholic, Austin Fowkes led with eight points. Dom Argentine, Jake Bolger and Isaac Schmitz all had seven points.

“We were down 19 at halftime and never recovered,” Tarquinio said. “We didn’t come out of halftime strong and we didn’t play there in the third quarter. We lost our composure, from top to bottom, and it got away from us. We didn’t show the fight that we have in the past.”

The Maroon Knight have a chance to avenge their lone loss of the season Thursday at Weirton Madonna. The Blue Dons edged Wheeling Central, 73-68, on Dec. 28 in the final game of the Undo’s Tournament.