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Avery Lee Lifts Central To Class 2A Title Game

Junior’s layup with 3 seconds stuns Cee-Bees

Photo by Kyle Lutz Wheeling Central’s Avery Lee drives to the basket during Tuesday’s OVAC Class 2A semifinal game against Clay-Battelle.

WHEELING — A pair of teams looking for different things battled for 32 minutes Tuesday night on Coach Skip Prosser Court and while only one could get the victory both achieved goals.

Clay-Battelle brought a 15-2 record to the Northern Panhandle looking for respect and the chance to show they could play with powerful Wheeling Central while the Maroon Knights were looking for a berth in an eighth consecutive Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 2A championship game.

Coach Josh Kisner’s Cee-Bees most definitely went home with the respect they were seeking but it will be Coach Mel Stephens’ Wheeling Central team that takes the court Saturday in search of an eighth straight conference title.

After sophomore Ryan Reasbeck tied the score late with a steal and basket, junior Avery Lee capped an amazing night with a driving layup with 3 seconds showing on the clock as the Maroon Knights avoided the upset and recorded a come-from-behind 87-85 victory over Clay-Battelle at their East Wheeling gym.

Stephens and his crew will take a 15-6 record to Ohio University Eastern Saturday at 4 p.m. for a third battle this season with second-seeded Shadyside, a 65-63 winner over Southern Local last night. Central has defeated the Tigers twice already this season.

“Getting to this game and then to the finals is always one of our big goals at the beginning of the season,” Stephens said. “But we know we have some work to do because we will be in a battle with Shadyside on Saturday.”

That battle may have never materialized if not for the night Lee provided for his team. The tough-as-nails 5-foot-10 guard scored a game-high 32 points, including four triples and a 14 of 14 showing at the charity stripe, but even more importantly held high-scoring Clay-Battelle senior Seth Casino to just four field goal attempts and two points.

Casino entered the game just eight points shy of 1,000 for his career and a stoppage of play and ball presentation had already been set up before the contest but never came to fruition thanks in large part to Lee.

While the Cee-Bees had a pair of starters, Levi Carrico and Chase Ammons both pick up their fourth fouls in the third quarter, the visitors never trailed in the second half until the end. A pair of Mojo Chisler free throws to begin the fourth period gave Clay-Battelle a 74-67 advantage.

But the Knights managed to trim the deficit to 75-74 a short time later on a pair of J.C. Maxwell hoops, the second a put-back with 5:41 to go. The visitors twice extended the lead back to five and led 83-81 with 2:08 remaining when they were called for an intentional foul.

Fortunately for the Cee-Bees both charity tosses and a three-point attempt were off the mark before Carrico drained a pair of free throws to make it 85-81 with 1:47 showing. Lee hit a pair of free throws with 1:27 to go before a Reasbeck steal and lay-up at 56 second tied the game for the first time since late in the second quarter.

Clay-Battelle worked the clock down with Casino going to the stripe for a pair of charity tosses with 18 seconds to go that were both off the mark. Central brought the ball up court, worked it around and eventually Lee cut through the lane and gave the hosts the lead with just 3.5 seconds to play.

Casino’s last-second half-court heave bounced off the glass as the Central team and fans celebrated.

“The made some big basket all night long and just kept coming through with shots even with us contesting them,” Stephens said. “But we kept battling and we hung in there and we ended up making one more play than they did.

“Avery really bailed us out all night long, but what a big steal and basket from Ryan Reasbeck with the game on the line. They are a good basketball team and really played well (Tuesday).

“They killed us on the offensive glass, but we talked about it at the half and got better in the second half. When we needed to be good on the glass we were. Early on it looked like we might not even get to Saturday, but give our kids credit they really gutted it out.”

Carrico scored 10 of his 17 points in the first quarter but Wheeling Central still managed a 25-23 edge after one thanks to three bombs from sophomore Michael Toepfer. Lee nailed a trio of triples in the second quarter and scored 13 points, however, a Colton Barr put-back just before the horn helped the Cee-Bees take a 48-45 upperhand at the break.

Reasbeck added 18 points for the winners while Maxwell had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Toepfer finished with 10. Central was out rebounded by a slim 32-29 margin but turned the ball over just six times, four fewer than their guests.

Barr led five double-figure scorers for Clay-Battelle with 19 and 12 rebounds while Chisler had 18, Carrico 17, Gage Statler 15 off the bench, on five three-pointers, and Ammons chipped in 10.

“We put the ball in the hole very well (Tuesday) but we didn’t shoot the ball from the line as well as we normally do,” Kisner said. “They got the big bucket when they needed it and sometimes you are just lucky like that. Not to take anything away from Wheeling Central.

“I felt like the kids really played to our potential. These boys have worked so hard in practice and during the off season and they are a good group of kids that play great team basketball.”

Clay-Battelle had a whopping 33 field goals in the contest, to 26 for Central, but the Maroon Knights finished 25 of 29 from the line while the Cee-Bees were just 9 of 16.

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