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Michael Toepfer Wins State Quarterfinal For Wheeling Central Boys at the Buzzer

Central edges Nitro in AAA quarterfinal

Photo by Kyle Lutz Wheeling Central’s Michael Toepfer hit the game-winning shot on Wednesday to send Wheeling Central marching on to the Class AAA semifinal.

CHARLESTON — Every young basketball player’s dream is to hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer. For Wheeling Central’s Michael Toepfer, that dream became a reality.

With the Maroon Knights down by two (39-37) with 3.8 seconds left, Toepfer inbounded the ball to J.C. Maxwell from the sideline just past midcourt. Maxwell then passed it back to Toepfer who dribbled it a couple times to the top of the key.

Toepfer let a 3-point attempt fly and saw it go in as Wheeling Central stunned Nitro, 40-39 in a West Virginia Class AAA state quarterfinal matchup Wednesday night at the Charleston Coliseum.

The Maroon Knights will take on Hampshire, which stunned top-seeded Robert C. Byrd in the semifinals Friday. Tip off is slated for 11:15 a.m. Friday.

“It was amazing for sure,” Toepfer said. “I always dreamed about doing that when I was younger. I was just happy it went in for my teammates, especially the seniors because they deserved to be back down here. I just want to help them as best as I can to maybe win a state championship.”

Toepfer finished the game with 11 points going 3-for-3 from behind the arc, all of which came in the second half.

Kolton Painter gave Nitro the lead at 39-37 with 1:01 left to play.

On the ensuing Wheeling Central possession, Leyton Toepfer missed a 3-pointer attempt with 17 second left.

The Wildcats were sent to the free throw line with eight seconds left to try to ice the game. However, Bryce Myers missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with Kaden Yocum securing the rebound for the Maroon Knights.

After a pair of Nitro fouls, Michael Toepfer inbounded the ball, received the ball back and called game.

“I thought defensively, we pretty much did what we wanted to do going into the game,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “I thought we forced tough shots, boxed out and rebounded. (Joseph) Udoh is a handful. He gets the ball down low, we had a tough time down there. (Kolton) Painter is very good. But I thought we made those guys work for everything they got.”

The Maroon Knights held the Wildcats to 1 of 15 from the 3-point arc.

Udoh had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Painter tallied 13 points. Trevor Lowe led the way with 14 points.

While both teams struggled from the floor in the first quarter, it was freshman Leyton Toepfer who provided a spark for the Wheeling Central offense. He hit two 3-pointers and had six of his team’s seven points in the first eight minutes.

“My team just believed in me to make big shots and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I took what I had and made the best of it,” Leyton Toepfer said.

Leyton Toepfer finished with nine points.

Not scoring a point in the first quarter, Ryan Reasbeck led the way for the Maroon Knights, with a game-high 17 points. He got going in the second quarter as he scored eight points, although Wheeling Central stared at a one-point deficit, 18-17.

“I started off slow, but all my shots felt good. I knew eventually my shots would drop,” Reasbeck said. “The second quarter I started making shots. I think it propelled our team to gain the lead and gain some confidence a little bit. Overall, I still didn’t think I shot that well, I’m grateful to have another opportunity to play with my teammates.”

Wheeling Central took its largest lead of the game after a Leyton Toepfer 3-pointer as the score read 29-24 with 3:56 left in the third quarter. However, the Wildcats provided the final five points and a Udoh dunk near the end of the third put it at 29-29.

The game saw seven ties throughout and both teams never trailed by more than two in the final eight minutes.

“My guys basically had that attitude that they weren’t going to lose,” Stephens said. “They want to stay and play another game. Even when it didn’t look good at the end there, thee seconds to go, you got the ball and down two, you have to make a shot. We did a great job of executing what we wanted to do there. Michael made a great shot.”

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