Wheeling Central, Shadyside to meet again

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — As it pertains to today’s OVAC Class 2A championship game, there will be no secrets.

After all, Wheeling Central and Shadyside are quite familiar with one another. That’s what happens when you’re embarking on the third matchup of the season.

Though it’s the third matchup — with the Maroon Knights winning the previous two by decisive margins — the stakes are much higher this time around with the conference title is on the line.

“We’re just going to go out, hopefully play well and then hope for the best,” Shadyside head coach Ed Andes said. “It’s a great opportunity for our kids. We’re playing a really good team.”

You could make the argument that Shadyside (12-9) is playing with house money in this game. After all, the Tigers were the fourth seed and went on the road to beat top-seeded Toronto in the semifinals. They’ve not been overly competitive against the Knights this season, losing by more than 20 in the opening game and then 78-45 some 10 days ago in Wheeling.

“For us to be in this (championship) game, it’s a little bit surprising,” Andes explained. “We had no starters back from last year, but the kids have performed well. I am happy for them that they’ve gotten to this point. The OVAC does a great job with the event and we’re excited.”

Wheeling Central, meanwhile, is 19-2 on the season and took down second-seeded River in the semifinals earlier this week in Hannibal.

“That was a big win for us,” Central head coach Mel Stephens said of the victory against the Pilots. “You have to get that one before you can get to the championship game, so that was the first step and it came against a really good team.”

The tournament experience advantage certainly lies with the Maroon Knights. They’re taking part in their fifth straight conference title game and have been consistent members of the West Virginia State Tournament field, too. The Tigers, meanwhile, haven’t played for an OVAC title since 2010.

“We’re just treating it like another away game,” Andes said. “Obviously, it’ll have a little bigger atmosphere.”

Central hasn’t only played the previous four conference title games. It has prevailed in those, too. All told, the Knights have claimed 24 conference banners, including seven under the current tournament format.

“Our tradition has a lot to do with it, I think,” Stephens said. “Even before the current format, the OVAC has always been a goal of ours. We’ve been fortunate to get into the top four and then win two good games over good teams to win a championship. We always feel like if we’re able to get into the top four, we’ll have a chance because of the schedule we play (during the season).”

Stephens really couldn’t pinpoint one area where his team has been able to really exploit an advantage against the Tigers.

“I don’t think it’s one area … we were fortunate and played really well, especially in the last game with them,” Stephens said. “The first game was close for three quarters and then we kind of made a run to open it up a little bit. Those games really don’t matter now. This is a big game, a championship game. We expect Shadyside to come out and play well and we have to do the same.”

Though he didn’t specify one individual matchup, Andes believes a big key for his team is keeping the Knights out of the lane.

“They got in there pretty easily against us the last time,” Andes said. “We have to limit their penetration.”

The Knights’ balance is tough on a lot of teams. Junior standout Brent Price leads the way at 18 points per game. On top of that, he raises the play of the guys around him, which is something that Andes is most impressed by.

He’s complemented by senior John Burkhalter, who checks in at 14 points a game. He had a key 16 points against the Pilots in the semifinals. Junior Owen Gainer knocks down 16 points a game for Central. Adam Jarrett and Gabe Rohman round out the starting unit. Bray Price, Jimmy Zecca and Cedric Williams are the top subs.

“We know Central pretty well,” Andes said. “We know what they like to do and they do it very well. If they’re shooting well (from the perimeter), they’re even tougher to defend because guys like Price and Burkhalter can get to the rim.”

Shadyside, meanwhile, is led by senior Chase Wade. The Tigers’ post player is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game. He’s one of four double-figure scorers in the Tigers’ lineup. Junior Josh Zandron checks in at 14 points per, while seniors Colby Sherwood and Austin Carroll add 11 and 10, respectively. Freshman Kelly Hendershot, who has had some big games this season, rounds out the starting five at seven points per game.

Alex Krupa and Anthony Coggins are the first two off the Shadyside bench.

“We have to try to limit (Wade) on the inside and pretty much lock onto their guys on the perimeter,” Stephens admitted. ”


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