Strong second half propels Knights past Tigers

WHEELING – With his team trailing Shadyside by three at the half, 34-31, Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens felt a little reminder was in order for his Maroon Knights.

Suffice to say, his team got the message.

Behind the inside work of Alonzo Manns and the marksmanship of David Park, two key seniors, Central woke up in the second half en route to a 67-53 victory against Shadyside at Wheeling Central’s gymnasium.

“This wasn’t a trap game by any means,” Stephens said. “It was an OVAC game and it was important. The difference in winning and losing this game was keeping the No. 2 seed in the OVAC (tournament, which begins next Tuesday). The difference in winning and losing might have been a trip to Caldwell.”

The trip won’t happen, as the Maroon Knights went back to what had worked early.

They took the ball inside.

The plan worked to a tee in the first quarter, as Central (12-3) built a 19-13 lead that had been as large as nine points.

Manns had eight first quarter points and was dominating the paint.

Then, it stopped.

“I thought we could go inside and have some success, and we did that early on,” Stephens said.

“Then for whatever reason, we went away from that.”

Shadyside (8-11), behind the driving and slashing of point guard Luke Nardo, who had a team-high 19 points, including 15 in the first half, capitalized.

“We were getting layups, doing the things you have to do to beat a good team,” Shadyside coach Ed Andes said.

Stephens knew what to do, and issued a challenge to his team.

“I told them we needed to go inside, go with what was working early,” Stephens said. “We told them that all the good work we had done last week (with victories of state-ranked teams Charleston Catholic and Madonna) would be gone if we didn’t pick it up and do what we had to do.”

So inside they went, with Chase Harler’s three-point play giving the Maroon Knights their first lead of the second half, at 42-40 midway through the third.

John Schuetz tied it with a deuce on the other end, but then Central pounced.

Manns started in with a three-point play and then freshman John Burkholder got a steal that led to a pair of Manns free throws. Brian Campbell, who is becoming a key role player off the bench, finished it with his specialty, a putback of a missed shot, to finish off a 7-0 run.

After a Shadyside free throw by Shane Johnson, Harler had a runner that gave the hosts a 51-43 lead going into the final quarter.

A 10-3 run to start the fourth quarter, including 3s by Park and Boyd Bibey, put the lead out of reach.

“We were guarding three guys, Park, Manns and Harler and they still got their points,” Andes said.

What the Tigers weren’t expecting was the eight-point, six-rebound performance of Campbell off the bench.

As he had done last Friday against Charleston Catholic, Campbell’s points came when the Knights needed them.

“Zo (Manns) is our big guy out there and he plays hard,” Stephens said. “There are going to be times when he needs a blow. Brian comes in and gives us that. Soup is more of a herky-jerky type player, a finesse player where Zo is more brute force. It gives an opponent a different look.”

Park led Central with 21 points, including four 3s and seven rebounds. Manns added 18 points and nine rebounds and Harler had 14 points.

Shadyside, a team without a senior, was led by Nardo’s 19 and Schuetz added 12 and Zack Frizzi had 10.

“It really was a tale of two halves,” Andes said ”In the first half we made layups. We did not shoot the ball well in the second half. We got very little in the paint. They deserved to win the game. They made a lot of plays in the second half.”

Central was playing the first of four straight games. The Maroon Knights are scheduled to play to host John Marshall today, then travel to Magnolia on Thursday for a key matchup with the Blue Eagles (as part of the New Martinsville Rotary Challenge at approximately 8:45 p.m. before wrapping up the week at Martins Ferry.