Size, Length Too Much For Knights
WHEELING — Quite simply, it boiled down to length and size.
North Allegheny had a distinct advantage in both departments against Wheeling Central Saturday morning.
The end result was the Maroon Knights dropping their second decision of the season, 84-67 in 10th annual Cancer Research Classic at the Alma Grace McDonough Center on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University.
“(That size) is something we don’t see around here too often,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “Not only were they big, but they were good players. I thought we battled as much as we could. I am proud of our kids’ effort, but we need to get a little bit better at execution on both ends.”
Though no coach wants to lose anytime he plays a game, Stephens quickly realized the benefits his team could draw from facing a Tigers’ squad that featured 6-7 Isaac Barnes on the frontline and talented guard Curtis Aiken in the backcourt.
“Down the road, somewhere, this game and experience may pay dividends,” Stephens said. “If we would be fortunate enough to get to the state tournament and get another game with (Huntington) St. Joe’s, which has the big kid inside. Hopefully, we learn something from this game.”
Central found itself on the short end of a 48-28 rebounding stat. It also yielded 18 offensive rebounds, which allowed North Allegheny to outscore the Knights, 22-4 in second-chance points.
“I thought our post guys battled their butts off, but just too much size,” Stephens said.
“Plus, they ran some good stuff to get those guys the ball in good positions close to the basket.”
The Maroon Knights got within 10 at a juncture late in the third quarter, but the Tigers stretched it to a 61-47 reading at the final break. Central didn’t get the deficit into single digits the entire fourth quarter.
Central was able to remain as close as it did thanks to the 3-point shot. It shot 32 percent from behind the arc, including a sharp 5-of-11 effort from Owen Gainer, who shared team-high honors for Central with 19.
“We can shoot it a little bit, but once we got behind, I thought we needed to get to the line to get some chances to score with the clock stopped,” Stephens said. “The key was getting stops and once you get behind you have to take some chances, which gave up some easier opportunities.”
Talented junior Brent Price finished with a double-double for Central. He had 19 points and 10 rebounds. John Burkhalter finished with 16 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots.
Barnes put forth an impressive stat line for North Allegheny. He finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds. Aiken added 21 points, while Luke Carter and Griffin Sestilli went for 11 and 10, respectively.