Wheeling Central Pulls Away From Linsly
Lee (18), Reasbeck (17) Pace Knights
WHEELING — Wheeling Central’s 13th Street gymnasium was filled to capacity Saturday night as the Maroon Knights welcomed city foe Linsly for the latest chapter in the long-standing and storied boys’ basketball rivalry.
The fans who braved the raindrops to head into Skip Prosser Court were rewarded with a dandy, one that ended with the home team pulling away for a 64-50 triumph.
Avery Lee scored 18 points and Ryan Reasbeck followed with 17 as the top-ranked Maroon Knights rebounded from a disappointing loss Friday night to Charleston Catholic.
“I think it was good that we had the quick turnaround and were able to forget about that one (Friday night),” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “The last three or four minutes we went out and executed and did what we had to do.”
Wheeling Central (8-3) led throughout, but the Cadets, playing their ninth road game in 11 starts, closed to within two with about six minutes remaining, only to watch the Maroon Knights finish the game on a 21-7 spurt, ignited by a 7-0 run giving them a 50-43 advantage with 4:25 left.
From there, the Maroon Knights only converted three field goals, but one was a 3 and Lee went 5 of 6 from the line down the stretch to help seal things.
While Stephens praised his squad’s execution in the closing moments, Linsly coach Dave Wojcik pointed to his team’s execution as its Achilles heel as the clock wound down.
“That’s what I was just talking to the team about,” said Wojcik, coaching at his alma mater for the first time since leading the Maroon Knights to back-to-back West Virginia Class A crowns in 2002 and 2003, after emerging from his locker room.
“When you’re in games like this, every possession matters and everybody has to fill their role.
“We just didn’t execute down the stretch. Give (Wheeling Central) credit. They made shots down the stretch they needed to. (Lee) hit one. (Reasbeck) hit one. Then, (Jalen Creighton) hit one in the corner. So, when you’re in these types of games you have to execute, and we didn’t do that.”
Creighton’s shot that Wojcik was referring to was a 3 from the right corner and capped the surge that gave the Maroon Knights breathing room. Saddled with four fouls, Creighton re-entered the game just before dialing up long distance after sitting for a large portion of the second half.
“I thought we needed him there to give us leadership and another ballhandler,” Stephens said. “It just got us back to our normal lineup.”
Clayton Abate, who finished with 10 points, made the score 45-41 with a jumper. Stephens said his presence opened up plenty of options for his offense.
“We ran a couple of sets trying to make sure we got (the ball) to him and we did,” he said. “Once we did that, (Linsly) kind of had to sag down a little bit more on him and we were able to get some good looks from the perimeter.”
Lee was one of the beneficiaries. His 3-pointer from the left gave the Maroon Knights a 55-45 lead with 3:35 left. He was also instrumental in handling the ball when the Cadets (7-4) started pressing with less than minutes left.
“He’s one of better foul shooters, so we want him in there handing the ball,” Stephens said of Lee, who was 7 of 8 from the stripe — all in the fourth.
Marshall Taylor, who led all scorers with 22 points, brought Linsly back to with eight — 55-47 — with a hair less than minutes left, Wheeling Central answered with a 7-0 run, that included a putback by Reasbeck off Lee’s only free throw miss.
Reasbeck finished with four 3s, part of eight the Maroon Knights drained on the night. Linsly was unable to hit a shot from long distance after making seven in its win at Barnesville on Wednesday.
“Clayton and even Ryan and J.C. (Maxwell) (11 points) were able to get in there and get some rebounds,” Stephens said. “We ended up getting some big ones when we needed them.”
And they couldn’t have came at a better time, Stephens added.
“This was a big game,” he said. “It’s a big rivalry. We come out flat in some games, and I think that one (Friday night) they wanted to try and make up for it a little bit.”