Wheeling Central Secures 12th OVAC Championship
White leads Knights With 23 Points
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — No miracles needed this time.
Wheeling Central used a miraculous rally Monday to upset Shadyside in the semifinals of Wheeling Hospital’s OVAC Girls Basketball Championships. Down double figures with a minute to play, the Maroon Knights managed to pull out an overtime win despite being shorthanded against the top-seeded Tigers.
Saturday’s 2A championship game at Ohio University Eastern was a much different story.
Coach Penn Kurtz’s No. 4-seeded charges pressured their way to a third conference crown in four years with a 58-39 win over No. 2-seeded and gutty Steubenville Catholic.
It was also Central’s 12th OVAC girls’ basketball title in school history.
Wheeling Central employed a stifling fullcourt press, forcing the Crusaders into 30 turnovers, 19 coming prior to intermission. The Maroon Knights also received superb efforts from two of their stars — Hannah White and Kaylee Reinbeau.
White topped all scorers with 23 points, 20 coming in the first half, while playing with reckless abandon despite dealing with a hip injury. Reinbeau, meanwhile, was making her return after a several-week absence due to a high ankle injury. She returned with a sparkling 18-point, eight-steal effort.
“We felt we could pressure them. That is a new press we put in and it was effective,” Kurtz said. “Hannah making those threes early really made things easier. She helped set the tone.
“Kaylee being back was a huge boost. When she practiced the other day it really gave the team a lift,” he added. “She was a little rusty early on but she finished very strong. She obviously makes a big difference.”
The loss dropped Jess Looman’s hard-playing Crusaders to 13-8. They advanced to the finals via a 51-34 triumph over Shenandoah.
“We knew they would pressure us. We prepared for it but they still did a nice job with their press,” Looman said. “But I am proud with how our girls kept battling and the passion they exhibited. We didn’t hang our heads.
“We turned it over a ton in the first half but we were still in the ballgame. We have a lot of respect for Wheeling Central and for Penn. He runs a great program. Our hats are off to them.”
Wheeling Central moved to a 15-9 lead after the opening eight minutes, getting nine points from White and five steals from the ever-hustling Reinbeau. White remained hot in the second period, dumping in 11 more markers in upping the Maroon Knight lead to 32-23 at intermission.
Reinbeau found her form in the second half, netting six points in the third frame as Kurtz’s crew stretched their advantage to 47-34 entering the fourth. She helped seal the Crusaders’ fate with seven points in the fourth period.
“A couple of weeks ago we weren’t even sure of making the OVAC Tournament. When Kaylee went down it was a major blow but some of the younger kids began to play better and gain confidence,” Kurtz said. “Even though we lost some of those games, the younger kids were getting better and better, and the team got better. Now we are 11-11 and OVAC champions.”
Morgan Green was the lone Crusader in double digits. She had 10 points while senior dandy Bella Oliver netted nine.
White’s impressive play, which also included seven steals, earned her the game’s MVP award.
“Hannah has been amazing. She came back from knee surgery last year and has been battling a hip injury this year,” Kurtz said. “Then she has had to carry the load after losing Eden (Gainer) and Kaylee with injuries. Hannah has had a great year.”