Central Marches By Valley
Maroon Knights flex muscle in opener
MOUNDSVILLE — Wheeling Central’s boys’ basketball team made a major statement Tuesday night, not just by winning its West Virginia Class A Region One, Section One semifinal in convincing fashion against Valley, but just by how the powerful Maroon Knights got things done.
The Mountain State’s second-ranked Class A club has proven all season that it is deep, but Tuesday night any doubts about Central possibly being a two-man show were quickly put to rest.
With all-stater Brent Price struggling from the field early, then picking up his third foul late in the second quarter, the Knights’ trio of Bray Price, Anthony Robbins and Owen Gainer were more than enough to get the job done against the Lumberjacks.
Bray Price (19), Robbins (19) and Gainer (15) combined for 53 points, hitting 22 of 32 shots, and Wheeling Central used its transition game to score points in bunches to put up as many points in the first half as Valley did in the game during a 92-52 whitewashing at the John Marshall Fieldhouse.
With the victory, Coach Mel Stephens’ team improved to 20-2 and will face Cameron at 7 p.m. Friday night back in Moundsville. The Maroon Knights and Dragons are guaranteed berths in next week’s regional tournament.
The first quarter belonged to Robbins and Gainer as Central trailed 5-4 but eventually took control with a quick 18-2 spurt that saw Robbins score five consecutive points off turnovers. Robbins scored 12 of his 19 in the opening quarter while Gainer had eight of his 15 and the Knights grabbed a 29-15 advantage.
Trailing 33-15 early in the second, the Lumberjacks used the long ball, very long at that, hitting three straight 3-pointers — two by Levi Streets — to pull to within nine at 33-24 with 5:25 to go in the half. However, the Maroon Knights methodically stretched that out to a 52-35 edge at the break.
While Bray Price scored 10 of his 19 in the second, and brother Brent had four of his six, Streets finished off a nice half with four 3-pointers and 18 points. Unfortunately for Coach John Kocher’s team, Streets was limited to four points in the second half to finish with a game-high 22.
A Streets 3-pointer to begin the third, followed by an Avery Kinkade runner pulled Valley to as close as it managed to get the rest of way at 52-40 with 7:04 to go in the quarter. That was quickly followed by a 17-4 Central rally, highlighted by a Robbins slam.
The Knights led 73-46 after three with the reserves finishing things off in the fourth with a fine 19-6 outburst.
“When we are able to get out and run like that in transition we can be a very good basketball team,” Stephens said. “And we were able to do it in both halves. I thought we also did a nice job of getting Anthony (Robbins) and Cedrick (Williams) the ball down low early on.
“Brent (Price) may not have scored much, but he did a great job distributing the ball and both Bray and Anthony scored over their averages. It’s more than scoring with Brent, we need him to do all the little things to help make everyone else better as well.
“Coming in we knew both Streets and (Peyton) Bassett could shoot the ball from long range, but I think they got a little tired as the game wore on. This was definitely a good game for us and it was nice to get everybody on the court for some extended minutes, and have them all play as well as they did.”
Jalen Creighton added nine points off the bench for Wheeling Central, which had 12 of its 14 players dent the scoring column. The Maroon Knights did a good job handling the ball, committing nine miscues to 21 for the Lumberjacks, and grabbed a commanding 39-20 edge off the glass.
Central canned 39 of 72 field-goal attempts for a 54-percent showing.
Kinkade finished with 10 points off the bench for Valley while Bassett had three 3-pointers for nine points.
As for Friday night’s matchup with the Dragons, Stephens is glad that his team is guaranteed at least two more games, but the Knights are looking for a home regional contest.
“Cameron has been playing very well and it really should be a good one Friday night,” Stephens said. “(Tuesday) is definitely the game you want to get because you into the “mulligan game.” But I can guarantee you we will come out and play hard Friday night to get that home game next week.”