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Central Girls Have a Lot To Replace This Season

As always, state tourney the goal

December 2, 2013
By DAVE MORRISON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - It may take more than a village to replace the firepower gone from last season's 22-5 Wheeling Central girls' team, which advanced to the West Virginia Class A state tournament semifinals before falling to St. Marys.

It might have been two, but what a combination it was in Colleen McCormick and Emily Bucon.

The combination averaged more than 40 points and 20 rebounds together.

The duo earned all-state honors, Bucon being named to the Class A first team and McCormick the captain of the second team.

Finally, Bucon and McCormick ended up moving on to college, playing at West Liberty.

That is the problem for Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz faces headed into the new season.

"You don't really replace players like that," Kurtz said. "We will try to do it by committee. The nice thing we had with Emily and Colleen was we knew they would be consistent, night after night. This year we may struggle with that because we don't have the consistent presence of players who are going to score 40 and get 20 rebounds a night. They key for us is going to be how consistent we become and how quickly we can do it."

Point guard Maria Olsen is the leader on and off the court, as a returning starter.

With Bucon and McCormick gone, Olsen will be counted on to be more of a scorer.

"Her strength is in her defense and leadership," Kurtz said. "She brings a really good court sense at the point guard. She is going to be our leader on and off the court."

The cupboard isn't necessarily bare in terms of talent, either.

Regan Blaha had some double-figure scoring games last season, and will be counted on to increase that mark this season.

Mackenzie Michaels, who adds some height to the lineup, was the leading scorer on the junior varsity team last season, and will be counted on in the post.

"We are expecting big things from her," Kurtz said. "She has worked real hard to get better in the offseason."

Sydney Bennington had a great two-game state tournament for the Maroon Knights and Delaney Denniston provides some instant offense as a shooter.

Others who will see action include Ashley Gast, a senior who is out for the first time since her freshman year, juniors Cara Stahl and Julianna Ryan and sophomores Cate Calissie and Lindsey Baker.

Kurtz believes that depth will play a key role, and that he will likely mix and match the lineups, especially in the early going.

"I don't think we will have a set starting five, not at first," he said. "A lot of these girls have been playing basketball since fifth grade, just not at this level. I think we will be pretty balanced. A lot of who plays will be based on matchups and who is playing best that night."

A very challenging schedule awaits the Knights.

They will face defending Class AAA state champion Parkersburg South, Class AA powers Scott and Sissonville, Class AAA University and John Marshall as well as Linsly and Magnolia twice and Charleston Catholic, a traditional Class A power.

Last year Wheeling Central advanced through a tough schedule all the way the state semifinals before falling by two to St. Mary's. The Maroon Knights shot 19 percent in the second half.

"We play in a very strong region," Kurtz said. ''Making it back to the state tournament is going to take some work. We have some talent and we have girls who are going to play with desire. They are working really hard, they want to show that they can have success after Colleen and Emily. They learned a lot about work ethic, how to prepare to play at this level and they looked up to those two. Now, they want to create their own identity."

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