It was a most productive 24 hours for the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights.
Coach Mel Stephens' charges traveled to Martins Ferry Friday night and came away with a 57-45 over a quality Purple Rider squad. The hard-earned triumph came on the heels of Central's spirited win against highly regarded Magnolia the previous night in New Martinsville.
"I didn't know how much we would have in our tank (after the Magnolia game)," Stephens noted. "And we went through the motions in the first half. But we picked it up nicely after halftime."
MARTINS?FERRY’S Lucas Agnew and Wheeling Central’s David Park battle for a rebound during Friday’s game.
The Maroon Knights are now a sparkling 14-3. They return to action Tuesday, hosting Caldwell in an OVAC 2-A semifinal contest. The Knights enter the tourney as the second seed.
Central's one-two punch of sophomore Chase Harler and senior David Park once again sparked the visitors, but they received support from many unsung teammates.
Harler, a slashing 6-3 bundle of energy, worked his way for a game-high 21 points. Park, a multi-talented 6-5 forward, tallied 13 points and a like amount of rebounds.
Their supporting cast was impressive, none more than Brian Campbell. The willowy 6-3 sophomore came off the bench to donate 10 points while being a defensive post presence.
Hard-working Alonzo Mann netted nine points while guards Thomas Stanley and C.J. Burch delivered fullcourt on-ball pressure.
"Chase and David both turned in their usual solid efforts, but we had some nice contributions from several other players," Stephens said. "Ferry is a tough team to go against with their size and that zone. It was nice to get out of here with a win."
The Maroon Knights exited the gates quickly, receiving six Harler lightings to forge a 9-2 lead. The Purple Riders, however, used six points from sixth man Lucas Agnew to draw to within two at the break at 12-10.
Ferry, relying on scoring from 6-6 senior Robert Vargo and sweet-shooting sophomore James Edwards, moved out to a seven-point advantage with just minutes remaining in the first half at 22-15.
The Maroon Knights failed to crack, however, and ended the frame on a 7-0 run, punctuated by a three-point goal by Boyd Bibey just before the buzzer to knot matters at 22-all at intermission. Vargo had seven points in the period for Ferry and Edwards chipped in with five.
Park began to exert his presence in the third quarter.
The McDonald's All-Star Game nominee netted eight points in the stanza as the Maroon Knights methodically pulled away, gaining a 39-32 advantage after three quarters.
Wheeling Central put the issue on ice by opening the final frame on a 15-5 surge, good for a 54-37 upperhand with 2:30 remaining in the contest. Campbell came up huge for the visitors in the run, netting seven markers. Stephens emptied his bench at the 1:16 juncture, leading by a 54-41 count.
"I thought there were two critical factors in the game," Martins Ferry head coach Jeff Sabatino noted. "First, we let a seven-point lead slip away before halftime. Secondly, we had major foul problems. We were unable to play the way we would like.
"Give Central credit. They kept coming when they had the lead in the fourth quarter. They were relentless," he added. "They are a quality team."
Vargo led the way for the Purple Riders with 17 points and 12 boards on Senior Night. Edwards was next with 12 markers, including a pair of treys.
Martins Ferry dropped to 9-8. The Purple Riders return to action in a rare Sunday night encounter, hosting Indian Creek.
Wheeling Central also won the reserve contest.
WHEELING CENTRAL (57) - Park 3, 5-7 13; Stanley 0, 0-0 0; John 0, 0-0 0; Mann 3, 3-6 9; Harler 8, 3-6 21; Burch 0, 0-0 0; Droginske 0, 0-0 0; Bibey 1, 0-0 3; Campbell 2, 6-6 10; Merrick 0, 1-2 1. Totals 17, 18-27. MARTINS FERRY (45) - Vargo 7, 3-4 17; Barritt 1, 3-4 5; Edwards 5, 0-0 12; Appolloni 0, 1-2 1; Burress 1, 0-0 2; Agnew 3, 0-2 6; Bass 1, 0-0 0; Barbour 0, 0-0 0; Rine 0, 0-0 0. Totals 18, 7-12.
Three-point goals: Wheeling Central - Harler (2), Park (1), Bibey (1); Martins ferry - Edwards (2).