Central Stunned By Irish

Last-second shot off the mark for Maroon Knights

Photo by Seth Staskey Wheeling Central’s Anthony Robbins goes in for two and draws contact from Notre Dame defender Todd Griffith on Thursday night.

WHEELING — Notre Dame coach Jarrod West knew on Wheeling Central’s final possession that Brent Price was going to get the ball for a chance at a game-winning shot.

Having to go the length of the court, Price inbounded the ball and then took a pass. As the Irish players created space, Price got to the bucket and let the ball roll from his hand. The ball spun around the rim twice and was about halfway down before it rolled out, and Notre Dame celebrated as it shocked Wheeling Central, 60-59 on Thursday night.

“That’s what high school basketball is all about,” West said. “That’s two teams competing, trying to win a game. It was a great game to see. Great ups and downs. Price and (Owen) Gainer hitting shots. It’s hard to knock those guys out, so it’s a great win.”

Facing a six-point deficit with 1:34 to go, Wheeling Central didn’t go down without a fight. Price hit a clutch 3-pointer followed by another bucket off a steal to get within one, 58-57, with 57 seconds remaining. The Maroon Knights took the lead after a pair of free throws by Price with 32 seconds left.

On the ensuing Irish possesion, they tried to drain the clock. After a 3-pointer that fell short, Todd Griffith grabbed the offensive rebound and tallied the putback to give the Irish a 60-59 lead with seven seconds remaining.

“Give them credit,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “They came out and had a game plan and stuck to it. Big offensive rebound and putback to give them the lead. Then we ran a play to get Brent in an open court a little bit. He got as close as he needed to get, you know it just didn’t fall for us. The big key is for us to take what happened (Thursday) and learn from it and get better the next one.”

Wheeling Central led by as many as nine early in the second quarter, 21-12. However, the Irish went on a 13-0 run to go up by four, 25-21. A Joel Maurer basket capped the run with 42 seconds left in the first half.

Price drained his first long-range shot to get Wheeling Central within one, but Gabe Zummo secured a bucket before the half as Notre Dame took a 27-24 lead.

“They present some problems for us with their size and their ability to get the ball down low and rebound,” Stephens said of Notre Dame. “We knew that coming in. I thought the second half, we really did well from keeping them from getting the ball inside.

“They got a couple of rebounds. I told them at halftime, ’27 points in a half is not really all that bad.’ It was just the way they got them. And we talked all year about there’s going to be nights where we don’t shoot the ball well. (Thursday) in the first half was one of them.

“We just need to make a couple of plays. We got the lead late in the third and if we could just maintained that lead into the fourth, maybe it goes a little differently.”

Price had a game-high 26 points while Gainer netted 16 and Cedric Williams tallied 10 for the Maroon Knights.

Williams also didn’t play the majority of the first half as he was poked in the eye, but returned in the second. Anthony Robbins, another big man for the Maroon Knights, had to sit because of foul trouble in the first half.

“That was the other thing at halftime. We felt without those two guys playing, we held our own with a much smaller lineup,” Stephens said. “I give our guys credit. They battled and I think in the second half with Cedric and Anthony both out there, we played much better on the interior.

“We just need to execute a little bit better, what we want to try to do on the defensive end and what we want to try to do on the offensive end.”

Griffith led the way for Notre Dame as he scored 18 points while Zummo secured 16.

“We have five losses, four are against the top three teams in the state,” West said. “This team needed a signature win to be one of the big boys. To come here and get in my opinion not just Single A-program, but one of the best programs in the state, to beat them on their home court, that’s an honor … Big boost.”