J.C. Maxwell Helps Send Wheeling Central Boys to State Title Game
Knights to Face Shady Spring At 5:30 p.m. Today
CHARLESTON — Although its in a new classification, the Wheeling Central boys basketball team has punched its ticket to a familiar event, the state championship game.
J.C. Maxwell scored the first nine points for the Maroon Knights en route to a double-double (30 points, 12 rebounds) in a 61-49 victory over Hampshire in a West Virginia Class AAA semifinal matchup Friday night at the Charleston Coliseum.
Wheeling Central will face Shady Spring at 5:30 p.m. today for the state championship.
“I thought early on, especially defensively we followed our game plan,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “We felt like they had some kids that could really shoot the ball and we wanted to make sure we got out on them. Offensively, we got off to a good start. (Friday), is probably the best we’ve shot from the field in a month and a half. If you’re making shots, that makes life a little bit easier.”
And it was Maxwell that was making those shots for Wheeling Central. He finished the game 13 of 17 from the field including 3-for-5 from behind the arc. The senior also dished out three assists, had three blocks and supplied three steals.
“I just got going early,” Maxwell said. “I struggled on Wednesday, but I stayed confident. I hit my first few shots and credit to these guys. They kept looking for me, kept staying confident in me and I just kept shooting and they kept going in.”
The Trojans, who knocked off top-seeded Robert C. Byrd on Tuesday kept it close for the majority of the game and showed a little bit of resiliency.
They were down by as many as 13 in the third quarter after a Caleb Ratcliffe layup to put the score at 36-23 with 6:24 remaining.
Hampshire was able to cut its deficit to four by the end of the quarter. With 30 seconds remaining, Damon Steinmetz hit a jumper to put the score at 42-38.
“We missed a couple assignments that we went over in the scout of what we wanted to do,” Stephens said. “We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds. We missed a couple of box outs and they got a couple of easy ones. We made a couple of not-so-good decisions on the ball and gave them opportunities that way. But I was proud of my guys. When they cut it to four, they really buckled down and got back what we wanted to do on both ends and were able to get that lead back out there.”
With 6:18 left in the fourth quarter, a Steinmetz bucket put the score at 44-40 in favor of Central.
However, that’s as close as they would get.
Leyton Toepfer hit a 3-pointer to give the Maroon Knights some breathing room. A little over a minute later, Ryan Reasbeck hit a long range shot of his own to put the score at 50-40 with 4:34 remaining. On the next Wheeling Central possession, Toepfer drove to the hoop and tallied a layup.
The Trojans scored the next five points to cut their deficit to within seven, but that was as close as they would get for the remainder of the game.
Drew Keckley led the way for Hampshire with 15 points while Carter Smith netted 10.
For the Maroon Knights, Reasbeck, who scored his 1,000th point in Tuesday’s quarterfinal game against Nitro, tallied 16 points.
“I’m just really excited to play (today), Reasbeck said. “Every team’s goal is to get down here and obviously reach the state championship. I’m just happy we’re making it to the last day. We’re one of two teams left and I;m just super proud of my teammates for battling the past two games, especially J.C. He had a great game (Friday). We put countless hours in the gym together and couldn’t be happier for him.”
CLASS AAA CHAMPIONSHIP NOTE
Wheeling Central will take on Shady Spring for the Class AAA state title. The last time Wheeling Central reached the state championship was in 2018 when it defeated Ravenswood in Class A.
The Tigers, who are the No. 3 seed, defeated Herbert Hoover (87-45) in the quarterfinals and Winfield (68-51) in the semifinals.
They have four players averaging double figures in the state tournament. Braden Chapman has scored 17.5 points in the past two games while Cameron Manns has averaged 14.5 points.
Todd Ducan has averaged 13.5 points in his two state tournament games and Cole Chapman has 12.
“Just watching them play (Friday), they’re very good. All their kids can shoot the ball really well,” Stephens said. “They get out and pressure you defensively. They make it tough to get into whatever you try to do. We got to get busy and try to come up with some kind of game plan to negate both of those things. Their shooting ability and their ability to get out and pressure the ball.”