Wheeling Central Goes Inside To Stymie Shadyside
Abate scores 19, pulls down 22 boards for Knights
WHEELING — Having a game plan is a necessity in any sport. Making it work to perfection is normally not that easy.
Tuesday night state-ranked Wheeling Central’s game plan against visiting Shadyside was to get the ball inside to 6-foot-5 senior Clayton Abate as much as possible and to do its best to lock down the Tigers’ Kelly Hendershot and Corey Beckett on defense.
Mission accomplished on all accounts.
Abate had game-highs of 19 points and 22 rebounds as the Maroon Knights dominated in the paint while Avery Lee, J.C. Maxwell and Jalen Creighton put the clamps on Hendershot and Beckett and Central rolled to an impressive 75-58 victory over Shadyside on Coach Skip Prosser Court at the East Wheeling gym.
“We know the (Bryce) Amos kid is good inside for Shadyside, but we felt like if we could get Clayton the ball, we were going to be all right, and we did a great job of doing that,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said.
“The other part was to lock down their two biggest threats and Avery, Jalen and J.C. limited their touches and made that happen.”
The theme of how the game might play out started to take shape in the opening quarter as the team’s battled to a 17-17 tie after eight minutes, but Abate already had four points and eight rebounds.
Things remained tight for the initial three minutes of the second before the Maroon Knights finished on a 14-5 tear to take a 39-30 edge into the break. Leading 30-25 Central got a huge adrenaline boost from Abate who went high about the rim for a putback monster slam with 3:14 showing.
In a game that was going back-and-forth early, Coach Ed Andes watched his team take its final lead at 22-21 on a pair of Hendershot free throws with 5:49 to go in the opening half.
With Creighton and Michael Toepfer each draining 3-pointers in the third, the Maroon Knights pushed the lead to 11 at 49-38 before Amos capped a 6-0 Shadyside run with a bomb of his own to make it 49-44. Maxwell and Abate each finished the quarter with hoops for the hosts to extend the margin to 53-44 with eight minutes to play.
Wheeling Central again controlled the tempo, and the boards, in the fourth period with 10 rebounds and an 8 of 12 showing from the floor to steadily pull away.
“Rebounding was very big for us and we always try to get the kids to understand that extra possessions can lead to extra points and if you are giving up rebounds you are giving up extra points,” Stephens said. “Shadyside is a very good team and if you can limit their touches and hold them to one shot that is a good sign that good things can happen for you.”
Abate’s 19 paced four double-figure scorers with sophomore Ryan Reasbeck adding 18 points, Creighton chipping in 13 and Maxwell finishing with 11. Hendershot and senior classmate Tyler Parr evenly divided 28 points while Amos kicked in 12 in a losing effort.
The Maroon Knights grabbed a whopping 37-17 edge off the glass while committing 14 turnovers, three more than their guests.
“Rebounding was huge,” Andes said. “They did it and we didn’t. Things could have been a little different in that first quarter if we could have kept them off the glass.
“But like most Wheeling Central teams you have to guard all five of them which is tough to do. If you try to pay more attention to one of them another will get you because they can all score and do everything. Their big guy really hurt us inside (Tuesday).
“Kelly (Hendershot) did a nice job getting to the rim as he always does, but he was a little under the weather (Tuesday) and he had a tough night finishing.
“Hopefully we will get the chance to see them again (in the OVAC Tournament), but not in the first round. It seems like we have to come here every year and I would rather see them in the finals.
“They are a good team for us to play because they do so much right and it really opens our kids’ eyes up a little bit. I love playing them and it also helps get us ready for what we are going to see come tournament time.”
Entering play Tuesday night both teams were sitting at 8-3 on the season with Central second and Shadyside fourth in the OVAC Class AA standings. The top four teams qualify for the tournament.