Park leads Central by Linsly, 77-65

WHEELING – Wheeling Central’s David Park came out on fire and he never let up.

Even when he wasn’t scoring or rebounding, which he did a lot of, he was making his mark as a facilitator.

The senior poured in 35 points and grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds Monday night in the Maroon Knight’s 77-65 victory against city-rival Linsly at Linsly.

As big as his points and rebounds were (he had 19 points and 15 rebounds at the half), it was his willingness to fall back to assist-man for Alonzo Manns on a pair of baskets early in the fourth quarter when Linsly had fought back to make it a five-point game.

“We were just trying to win a game,” Park said. “Whatever I have to do, I’m willing to do it. ‘Zo was wide open. You are going to take that decision every time. He really runs well, gets out on teams and on those baskets he was wide open.”

“I know if I’m running the floor and I’m open, those guys are going to find me,” Manns said. “David played a heck of a game and he executed. We really wanted this win.”

In a game pitting friends against friends, Central held the upper hand from by using a key 12-0 run late in the third to erase a 51-50 deficit and take an 11-point lead.

Chase Harler and Park capped the run with back-to-back 3s (it was one of six on the night for Park).

Cole Griffin and Arien Seymour had five points at the outset of the fourth to cap a run that brought the home team to within five, at 62-57, but just like that, it ended. Park found Manns for two layins after he had made a pair of free throws (he was 7 for 7 at the line) to restore the double-digit lead.

“That separation in a game like this is huge, because (Anthony) Wallace is capable of putting a bunch of points together in a short amount of time,” Central coach Mel Stephens said. “When you get them down you don’t want to let up because they have an outstanding team.”

It was a tough loss for the Cadets, who were playing their final game at home, the last game in what was a packed gym for the five Cadets’ seniors, including Wallace, who was honored before the game for eclipsing 1,500-point career points.

Lost in the haze of runs and points, primarily by Park, who was aided by sophomore Chase Harler (18 points) and Manns (14) was the defense that Central played on Wallace, who had 11 in the first quarter and finished with 22.

“We started the game in a straight (3-2) zone but we went to a box-and-1 on Wallace in the second (quarter),” Stephens said. “I can’t say enough about the job Jonathan Droginske did tonight on defense.”

“They did a good job but we’ve seen box-and-1s all year,” Linsly coach James Wallace said. “Harler is a great defender and you have to give Central credit. Every great scorer has nights when they aren’t falling. Several of his shots that he is normally going to make rimmed out or rolled off the rim. Those things happen.”

Not for Park on this night. The senior rarely missed, and he was huge on the boards, especially in the second quarter when he grabbed 11.

“We did a good job on the glass tonight,” Stephens said. “That was a big night from David.”

For coach Wallace, it was a bit of picking the poison he wanted to try.

“We did some things on defense tonight that allowed (Park) to be in a position to get rebounds, because we were trying to limit some of their other weapons,” Wallace said. “Park and Harler were hitting their shots, but you also have to account for Manns because he is tough inside and then (Boyd) Bibey is an outstanding shooter. Coach Stephens has them peaking at the right time and that is what Central does.”

In addition to Wallace, Linsly got 14 from Griffith and Eric Taylor added nine.

With the win, Central (17-3) has now beaten the three teams it lost to this season (Magnolia and Subinterval Central are the others) and the Maroon Knights have won nine straight since losing to Linsly on Jan. 24 (97-72).

“We wanted this game because they did beat us at home,” Park said. “For some of us it is the last time we will play Linsly and we didn’t want to lose to them again. Anthony (Wallace) is a good friend of mine and you don’t want to lose to your friends.”

Linsly has one game left, Wednesday against Frankfort at the Charleston Civic Center.

Park plays Paden City today and has a makeup date with John Marshall Feb. 27.

Coach Wallace sounded a warning signal for future opponents.

“When Park and Harler are playing like that, and they are getting contributions from other players, they are going to be really hard to beat,” Wallace said.