Carmody, Mars edge Wheeling Central at CRC
WHEELING — When taking on Mars and Notre Dame bound Robby Carmody, Wheeling Central knew it would take an out of this world performance.
And for basically 31-plus minutes, the Knights delivered it, too.
However, a couple of late empty trips and a few costly turnovers proved to be the eventual undoing for Central as it dropped its first game of the season, 77-70, in the opening game of Saturday’s Cancer Research Classic schedule at Wheeling Jesuit University’s Alma Grace McDonough Center.
“No disrespect to anyone, but this was by far the best team we’ve played,” Central head coach Mel Stephens said. “We gave a great effort and if a couple of bounces went a different way down the stretch, it might be a different story.”
When playing against a high-level player like Carmody and a talented team, Stephens knew his team would need to bring its best.
“We weren’t perfect, but we were able to make enough big plays to keep us in the game and within striking distance most of the game,” Stephens said.
Central, which trailed by four at halftime, battled back to tie the game at 54 after three, which set up an entertaining seven-plus minutes in the fourth quarter, which included five lead changes and three ties.
Carmody, who was named the game’s MVP, collected his fourth personal foul on a player control call with 6:02 to play.
His father and head coach, Rob Carmody, trusted his son and star enough that he spent nary a second on the bench.
Finishing with 26 points and 14 rebounds, Carmody lived up to the billing.
“Our key was to attack Carmody because we knew he was their best player and if we could get him into foul trouble and possibly out of the game, it might swing things in our favor,” Stephens explained. “Give him credit. He did a good job. He’s going to Notre Dame for a reason. He knows how to play the game and he adjusted to what we were trying to do and made a couple of plays at the end.”
Meanwhile, though Central made a concerted effort to go at Carmody, the future Irish player, played within himself. He altered three shots, blocked one and collected two rebounds after being whistled for his fourth.
Wheeling Central (8-1) led 67-66 with 2:07 to go after a Cedric Williams, but that shot was answered by Cade Hetzler, who knocked down an elbow jumper on the ensuing trip, giving the Planets a 68-67 lead.
One of Carmody’s rebounds came after Central missed a dunk. He was fouled and promptly sank both foul shots.
However, Central wasn’t done just yet. Anthony Robbins tallied on the inside with 1:11 to go and after a turnover, impressive senior Brent Price got one-of-two at the line, knotting the game at 70 with 43 seconds to play.
That proved to be the final time the Maroon Knights would score.
Carmody again rebounded and was fouled in the frontcourt. He made both, giving Mars a 72-70 lead. After Michael Carmody collected a defensive rebound and was fouled, he made one of two.
Central grabbed the rebound, but Hetzler recorded a steal and layup, which was the first nail in the Knights’ coffin.
“There were a couple of plays at the end where we needed to execute and we just didn’t,” Stephens said. “This is the tightest game we’ve been in and hopefully the kids learn from this. Obviously, there are a couple of things we need to do better and move forward.”
Carmody put the final exclamation point on matters when he got a steal and raced in for a reverse, two-handed dunk just before the horn.
“To win these types of games, you have to make plays at the end and (Mars) made them and we didn’t,” Stephens said.
The Maroon Knights, though disappointed with the outcome, will go back to work and still have all of their goals ahead of them.
“This is a game that will benefit us down the road,” Stephens said.
Central had a quartet of double-figure scorers. Senior Owen Gainer led the way with 21, while Price finished with 20. Robbins posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Williams closed with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Mars, which played just five players in the game, got double-figure scoring from four of those players. Andrew Recchia and Hetzler went for 19 and 16, respectively. Michael Carmody added 10 points and 12 rebounds.